I was editing my writing and realized that one character referred to another as a cockroach. This usually would not be a problem but since the one being referred to as a cockroach is black, it may come across as racist. A few pieces of dialogue later it is said that the reference was because she was a child. I just need to know if this needs changing.
What is "wrong"? Nowadays someone will always take offence. I'd say if you're gonna be a writer (and not specifically targeting certain demographics) it's more important not to be a bleeding heart, than insensitive. A solid artistic vision tends to draw attention.
Besides, you could always revise as morals or ethics shift. Permit me to quote from arthur hailey's airport foreword:
One final thing. Two important story characters—Lieutenant Ned Ordway,
the airport’s police chief, and Perry Yount, an air traffic supervisor—were
each referred to in the 1968 edition as a “negro.” At that time the description
was normal, acceptable and inoffensive and, with millions of book copies in
forty languages, I have not received a single complaint. However, I concede
that more recently the label “negro” has become offensive, and therefore is
not repeated in this new edition. Instead I have used “African American,” a
phrase seeming, to enjoy wide favor.
But please, dear readers, do not write to me pointing out that “African-
American” came into general usage far later than 1968. I know that. But I
prefer to be respectful of minorities, as I have in other novels, rather than