Okay, what is it with people freaking out any time a non-white person/POC complains that there aren’t enough black or Asian characters in a show? Someone enlighten me as to why it is so threatening to some white people when people of colour aren’t happy with the minuscule representation we receive in the media today.
Yesterday, I was having a lazy scroll through my Facebook feed when a post from a group called Netflix Recommendations totally (but probably expectedly) blew up. A black woman had commented something along the lines of “So do black people exist in The Society or what?”
And, of course, white people came out in droves to say things like “well actually there was ONE black guy, amongst the other 10 white people, so clearly you’re just an ungrateful brat who didn’t even watch the show” and “if you want black representation, go watch Dear White People. That’s made for people like you.”
The post actually got removed before I got a chance to screenshot it (I know, defs a failure on my part) but honestly, it doesn’t even matter. Because this isn’t specific to this show, or even to black people. It’s an issue relevant to pretty much all western media, where apparently white people are the norm and the rest of us are super rare Pokemon that are lucky if we see ourselves on TV.
Hot Take: Non-White People Exist
It’s perfectly valid to criticise a show for having almost all white characters, because white isn’t default and POC is not a genre.
Now, rebutting that racist person’s point, Dear White People is a show that I would recommend to anyone regardless of ethnicity. The question with a response like that is – why can’t we be in shows for everyone? Like, is this person saying we can only be represented in shows about our community struggles? It’s actually a really divisive, isolating, and racist mindset because it implies we aren’t part of the broader, whiter community. It also, you know, just implies that being non-white isn’t normal, which is obvs problematic. There’s no genres that are ‘white’ and ‘non-white’ – we’re perfectly entitled to wanting to see ourselves in all kinds of movies and TV shows, thanks.
Stop Telling Us To Be ‘Grateful’
Why should she be grateful that she had some kind of minor representation of blackness because there was a lone token black character in a sea of white characters. Especially if they’re not integral to the plot. Bonus points if said token POC character’s arc is written by a white person and based on racial stereotypes like absent black fathers or gangs, or restrictive and oppressive Asian parents, etc. without any form of originality or nuance.
Why is there a limit to how much we, as non-white people, can ask for in representation, and why does it lead to such explosive and defensive responses? People get so threatened. Do you think we want to take away all your white characters and replace them with brown ones? Obviously that’s not true, and it’s literally impossible for white people to be underrepresented in western media. But if it was – why so threatened about having less representation than us? It’s almost like minorities are treated badly in the media.
Why do we have to watch shows specifically about one race to see that race in it? Why aren’t we included in narratives that are mainstream or universally ‘relatable’? Where the hell are the black/brown/Asian people?! Honestly, there’s so many questions like this and the answer is: people are racist. It’s that simple. There’s no valid argument against having more diverse characters – calling it unrealistic is bullshit, and also very racist. We’re not goddamn fairies or dragons – I’m actually pretty sure we exist in the real world just like everyone else.
Image Source: GIPHY, Sony, Marvel Studios.