This is my second post on representation in the media but there are just so many facets to this issue that I felt it deserved two separate postings.
Firstly, let me just say that its rare that a day goes by that I don’t feel like standing up in the middle of class or campus or a freaking Target and screaming REPRESENTATION MATTERS.
I have had countless arguments with my white boyfriend and white friends that basically consist of me telling them why it’s important to see people that look like you achieving tremendous things and their response being “but of course you can do that stuff, why do you need a TV character to tell you that?”
This is why:
Growing up as a minority in our culture means that you are taught a history that is only partially yours. In America, we learn about the white settlers who “discovered” our land and the white men who wrote our constitution and have governed us for the last 200 years. We learn that Africans were brought over as slaves and Native Americans were pushed off their land. We learn that Mexico wanted Texas really badly but ultimately, America won.
The issue with this history is that it is told from a Euro-centric (or white) point of view.
This “white” point of view is prevalent in every form of storytelling we have. Children’s books? White character. Newscasts? White victims and minority aggressors. Textbooks? White male heroes. TV Shows? All white (plus the token gay or Black friend and their Hispanic housekeeper).
Obviously there are exceptions to this like NBC’s Black-ish or The CW’s Jane the Virgin but overall, we are flooded with images of happy, successful white people and this is what our view of American society is formed by.
In a study called “Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment,” it was found that only 28.3% of television characters with dialogue were non-white. That’s nearly 10% below the percentage of non-whites living in America.
Now you may still be wondering “yeah, but why does any of that matter?”
It matters because from the time white people are born they are flooded with images of people who look like them, talk like them and are from similar backgrounds as them achieving monumental and historic things.
Our history is told through people like George Washington, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Albert Einstein never mind the achievements of people like Angela Davis, Willie Velazquez and Mae Jemison. When this symbolic annihilation of entire ethnicities occurs on such a huge scale, it isn’t hard to see how young boys and girls of color can grow up not understanding that success isn’t just for white people.
We need characters like Elena of Avalor and Olivia Pope to show us that we can be strong, intelligent, successful, multidimensional people with the same hopes and dreams as our white friends.
Not caring about representation is a privilege reserved only for non-minorities and to ignore underrespresentation’s effects is to ignore the stories of minorities in America.
Yours Politely, Natalie
Smith, Stacy L., Marc Choueiti, and Katherine Piper. “Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment.” USC Annenberg, n.d. Web.