Representation Matters to White People Too
Look, when I say “representation matters,” I believe that the most important thing is for people who are often ignored in arts and media to see themselves there.
But I also mean that it’s important for white/hetero people to see people who aren’t white/hetero.
Here’s the thing. I was raised in a very white/hetero community. Every friend I had was white. I never had a black person in my classroom until late high school. I never had a black teacher until college. There was one out-gay student at my high school. One. And I saw what shit he had to go through by being out.
And, if I’m honest with myself, most of the adults in my life were racist and homophobic. They were good, loving people…to me. But they were also racist and homophobic.
And as a kid through my teen years, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that didn’t affect me. I parrotted the adults in my life, which meant that I often parrotted their hate and their prejudice. I’m ashamed of those attitudes now–now that I’ve had education and met people who were different from me and travelled the world and put aside hate.
But then? It was easy to excuse racism. People who weren’t white and straight didn’t exist in my world–and they didn’t exist in the world I saw on television and in books and on the radio. It was easier to live in the bubble of that world.
Representation matters to white people, too. It is important for white people to see diversity. Not as a token, not as “politically correct”–the white people who feel that adding a minority character to a storyline is pandering are horrible people who are entirely missing the point. I’m talking about the white kids who don’t see minorities in their lives, but who see a black girl and a white boy being friends on Sesame Street. I’m talking about the straight teen reading More Happy than Not, I’m talking about the white teen empathizing with Malala Yousafzai. The more representation we have, the more we hold a mirror through the world rather than whiting-out people who aren’t like the majority, the better our world is.