One writer I was reminded of while reading his work was Chimamanda Adichie, who explores questions of race in her novel Americanah. Salesses writes, "A similar but different criticism occurs when a writer is told that her portrayal of minority characters isn't different enough. A woman in my program has been told that her stories need to be more ethnic, that readers should be able to smell the food." We have this idea that writers of a particular ethnicity or those from some other country need to write about their background in ways that we expect. Essentially, we want stereotypes we recognize.
Adichie talks about this idea in her TED talk "The Danger of a Single Story." She tells of a professor who questioned her writing as not being "authentically African." She says, "The professor told me that my characters were too much like him, an educated and middle-class man. My characters drove cars. They were not starving. Therefore they were not authentically African." In other words, they didn't meet his stereotypes of Africans, so Adichie, an African writer must not have portrayed them accurately.
Salesses does not come up with any solutions to the problems he raises (I'm not sure there are any answers to be found, at least not in a blog post), as he points out that the blame falls on all sides. While those of us from the dominant ethnic background definitely have a role to play, Salesses also points out that he, as a person of color, has also struggled. When he was an instructor in a creative writing class, he encountered a story that was problematic in terms of race. He writes, "The class waited to see how I would respond. I approached the story on the level of craft." This is what most of us do, as writers and as teachers. We fall back on craft instead of struggling with questions of race, avoiding the issue altogether. Perhaps the only answer is to deal with those situations when they come up, but that is easy to write on a blog; it is not as easy when sitting in a room with people and power and race all right in front of us.