I’m a huge fan of stories. I’ll take them however I can get them, fantasy, true crime, comedy, all equally worthy of my time. I’m the kid who’d get in trouble for reading during class; my parents had to hide the flashlights so I wouldn’t stay up past my bedtime reading under the covers (this in no way stopped me from locking myself in the bathroom with a book and reading until the sun came up). I’m also not just talking about books. I love stories from television, movies, music, I’ve even got a respectable collection of comic books to feed my story needs.
There is something troubling about many of the stories that I voraciously consume, on the whole they all seem incredibly… white.
Most of the books I read and the movies and TV shows I watch feature a leading cast of characters that all look like me. It’s not a conscious decision, but when the majority of the market is only offering milk you may not know that there are other beverage options out there to be explored. That’s not to say that the landscape isn’t getting more diverse. We have engaging dramas like ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ sharp comedies like ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ and we we’re even lucky enough to see some Oscar nominations and wins with ‘Fences’ ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Hidden Figures’.
But it isn’t enough.
There is a good first step being made, but with upcoming choices like casting Scarlet Johansen in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ or the very white washed live action ‘Death Note’ being offered up by Netflix, it’s clear that the people in charge of what stories we get to see are still struggling to offer up more than the same old same old.
The plain and simple fact is that representation matters. If the stories we show are a reflection of us, we need to make sure that what we see in the media mirror is accurate. It is not acceptable to be happy with the bare minimum. People need to be able to see themselves on screen and in text. I can flip on the TV and see any number of white people in literally any and all available roles.
There’s never been a time when I’ve thought I can’t be that, or I can’t do that. Part of white privilege is not having to think about it. Yet here I am, thinking about it. Keeping the stories we see primarily white isn’t just bad for representation, it’s dangerous.
If all we see is white stories it prevents us from being exposed to people who’s stories we may not as easily identify with. The easiest way to fight bigotry and fear, is exposure. If we can expose ourselves to new points of view, different lifestyles, and alternate cultures then maybe, just maybe we can build a richer cultural fabric.
When white people take on roles that were meant for people of color it creates an issue where we start to nullify the experiences of people of color. It isn’t my place to tell the stories of people who’s cultures I am not a part of, I’m sure they can do a better job of telling those stories than I ever could. Perhaps if we could just sit down shut up and listen to them, instead of defensively waving them off, we might actually learn something.
So yeah, keep giving me stories, but please hold the fluff, give me something substantive and flavorful. And for the love of all that is good, stop giving parts meant for people of color to white actors, they have no problem finding work. Let cultural stories be told by people actually from that culture.