Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Invisible People

Earlier this week I posted about the potential of Xena warrior princess to teach boys about gender.   Destruction and I have been watching the show, as it seems to be on nightly.  What I have noticed that I apparently didn’t when Xena was originally, is the lack of positive representations of people of color.   In fact there is a noticeable absence of anyone who is not white.

image This has caused me to re-examine some of the programs that the children regularly watch.  Mayhem, is a huge fan of Bob the Builder.  It might seem to the creators that they are being inclusive because of Wendy the female character but all they have done is create an all white world.  Destruction enjoys Ben 10 and once again the same phenomenon occurs.  Gwen, Bens sister has a highly visible role but there are no people of color. 

I have been subjected to hour after hour of children's programming and other than Dora and Diego there are little to no people of color represented.  It seems to me that because cause kids shows don’t have story lines about rapists, murderers, gang bangers, prostitutes and drug dealers that there  are few roles that are deemed fit for people of color to play.

Is it any wonder that when given the doll test children of color overwhelming select the white doll over the  black doll?  Even when it  comes to kids books, one must purposefully look for those that contain people of color.  If you are looking for a subject matter like Chinese New Year, then the child's book will contain Chinese children but otherwise most characters will be white because they are considered the universal norm.  People of color are only represented when our cultures can be consumed.

Racism is not natural, we actively teach it to our children.    If they cannot see themselves reflected in normal everyday situations, what else are they to think but that they are of little value?  There are various segments that love to blame parents of color for the lack of success of their children however, you will note that whiteness is not asked to overcome or rise above.  Regardless of its economic position, whiteness will always be given opportunities and advantages that children of color will not receive, no matter how dedicated their parents are to their success.

image In the Xena thread it was brought up a few times that Wonder Woman was not mentioned.  When we think of Wonder Woman we see an iconic female figure rising above patriarchy to kick butt, but what specifically about her character makes it necessary for her to be white?   Why is it necessary for the woman that manages to achieve equality with the white male to be white herself?  Why did She-Ra have to be white?  Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Jem and the Holograms, etc., all present overwhelmingly white images to our children with no justification for racial choice. 

These are questions we do not ask because we see white as normal and therefore have erased the impact of its overwhelming presence.  Even when we are not actively talking about race, it plays a role in what are even the most minor occurrences.  Erasure says as much about how we feel about bodies of color as using racial epithets.