Racist, Say What?

ImageImageI saw this posting on Tumblr yesterday and after my initial feelings of horror, I checked my pulse and began to think. I don’t necessarily know people who share this view, but I do know people who might dismiss this person as one of a rambling few, or say the much dreaded, “I don’t really agree with this, but I can see their point/where they’re coming from.” Yeah, I can see where they’re coming from to. Racism Mountain, due south from Ignorance Junction.

Ok, let’s break it down. What exactly is this person upset about? They are upset about the fact that they perceive there are more black people than white people in commercials. They even use the word “disgusted.” Why is this so disgusting? If they themselves are not disgusted just by seeing “so many” black people and not racist, are they upset about the fact that commercials are not statistically accurate?

Since I follow this blog, I’m inclined to believe this isn’t the case, given the kind of content I’ve seen. If it was, where’s the outrage over the fact that TV does not show predominately overweight people (60% of Americans are considered overweight)? And while we’re talking about misrepresentations, where’s the rage over the fact that on countless occasions, white people have been playing people of color since the dawn of Hollywood to now? Laurence Olivier played a black man (complete with black face), Mickey Rooney was a Japanese man, Angelina Joli was Cuban, Katharine Hepburn was also Japanese, Natalie Wood was Puerto Rican, Ben Affleck was Hispanic, and Johnny Depp was Native American.

(A common defense of older movies with obviously whitewashed characters is that there simply weren’t people of the correct race in Hollywood. Because…RACISM. Actual racism. So that’s not a great argument.)

So, it seems that this angry person cares about representation, but only when it seems like white people are “losing.”  I would bet a lot of money that this person is also upset about the TV channel BET and historically black colleges. This anger is misplaced. And since when has TV been just about realistically portraying statistics? Representation is more than that. It has to be. Otherwise, yeah, we’d just have white people in everything, and then they would play the remaining 1.4% of Americans that are Chinese, or whatever. It’s happened before. It’s still happening.

In a Stanford address in 2005, Hazel Rose Markus wrote that “reality depends on representation. We learn to see and we learn to see the world as our society sees it, as our family sees it, as our political party sees it…” If young black Americans aren’t shown someone on TV who looks like them (in a positive way), it’s like they’re erased from society. Life imitates art. Sure, the “statistics” might be off, but for SO LONG, black people were either not on TV at all, or were shown in horribly negative and racist ways, as idiots, as passive slaves, as criminals.

I’d say society owes minorities some commercial time.


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