I don’t actively buy magazines. I do, occasionally, pick up a gossip or fashion magazine to flip through when the opportunity presents itself like in the check-out aisle at the grocery store or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. I think it’s more about having something to do rather than actually subscribing to whatever information is being thrown my way with high resolution photos of gorgeous people and large text graphics. And even as a ‘few and far between’ magazine reader, I can still see the obvious problem in the exclusion of people of color in magazines. So, what’s stopping avid or even regular magazine readers from recognizing this and acting on it?
It’s simple, Hollywood is white-washed. Regardless of your race, it’s impossible to deny that Hollywood is dominated by white people and people of other races have to claw their way up the social hierarchy. They have to fight in order to get auditions or photoshoots or job opportunities that fall into the laps of other white celebrities. Just as Ifemelu mentions, look across the covers of a dozen popular and mainstream magazines and you’re unlikely to find a person of color on the cover.
Specifically non-white characters are being handed over to white actors, not only destroying the creative liberty of the piece but also even further limiting the opportunities of non-white actors. When people of color are considered for characters who everyone assumes are supposed to be white, protests explode all over the internet despite their hypocritical nature. People like Curt consider magazines like Essence to be ‘racially skewed’ because they attempt to provide people who aren’t white with some of the attention they deserve. TV shows or movies with decent characters that are played by people of color are considered ‘modern’ or ‘revolutionary’ because they’re proving that guess what: PEOPLE OF COLOR CAN ACT OR MODEL OR SING OR DANCE OR PERFORM JUST AS WELL IF NOT BETTER THAN WHITE PEOPLE CAN!!! Insane right?! We had to boycott the Oscars because they were excluding people of color, do you realize how insane that is? How hard is it to include everyone equally, to allow everyone the same opportunities and the same treatment? (This is why I’ll never understand racists.)
And there is no way that anyone can claim that people of color ‘just aren’t as good’ at certain things like acting or singing. Have you seen some of the people of color who do manage to gain traction in Hollywood? Viola Davis, Diego Luna, Idris Elba, Rami Malek, Aja Naomi King, Aziz Ansari, Harry Shum Jr., Kerry Washington, Dev Patel, John Cho, freaking Beyoncé! The list goes on and on and I’m sure there would be waves and waves of other people of color who are phenomenal and extremely talented that will never have a shot at proving themselves because of how white-driven our society is!
I think the reason behind Hollywood clutching onto white-washing like a 50’s housewife clutching her pearls is because they’re afraid of what will happen if people of color actually start to get some positive attention or a platform from which they can speak and actually be listened to. Allowing people of color to become more prominent in Hollywood means opening society up to conversations on race that so many people are so desperate to avoid. And that’s crazy! Tying back to my Dinner Party post, I think it’s so important to have discussions on controversial topics like race and it’s impossible to do so in a mature setting if Hollywood is so insistent on ignoring the problem.
To wrap this up, I’m going to quote Dike in the text he sent Ifemelu after Obama was elected President of the United States, “I can’t believe it. My president is black like me.” (447). That is why representation is so important. Not only is it encouraging discussion on race, it’s also providing security and hope to people of color, assuring them that they do matter and they are important regardless of white-washing. That even if they aren’t white, they can still suceed. It’s ok not to be white. We know that and it’s about time Hollywood acts on that.
That’s it for now.
[Note: I am so sorry, this got way longer than it was supposed to, whoops.]