The Roads We Travel

A few days in a life journey.

Posts Tagged ‘perceptions of race

Perceptions of Racial Reality in Media

On the way to school this morning, I asked my son to name one of his favorite shows (which are mostly cartoons) that had a girl or woman of color as the lead.

“What do you mean? Like Sandy in SpongeBob?”

No… close, but no.

I explained, think of a show with human characters or human representations in the case of cartoons. Is there one you can think of where the main character isn’t what we call White. I also explained that for some reason I don’t like the words White and Black as descriptive terms for skin color, they don’t truly represent the different shades and hues in our beautifully diverse world, but they do help to get the point across quickly.

He thought some more and couldn’t come up with any.

Then, I asked what about supporting characters. He quickly named Maria from Sesame Street, who he mentioned had recently retired, and another character from Rugrats. There! He sat back with a smile and kinda proud of himself.

Good job, son, but the conversation wasn’t over. It was just beginning.

We talked about how media shapes our perceptions of beauty and how he uses terms he’s learned through media to define beauty. Terms like “hot girls” which he almost always tends to use for girls scantily clothed with blonde hair and blue eyes. So, I asked, if this is the standard of beauty set by most of the media we consume, then what message does it send to girls who don’t look like this?

He didn’t know.

He thought some more and then said. Well, it doesn’t matter to me because I don’t need to see people who look like me on television to know I look good.

Swag.

I know, son and that’s great, but much of that is because our society doesn’t use beauty as a standard of value or success for men. Not so for women. Can you see that?

Yeah, I guess you’re right, he agreed.

So, what do you think we should do about it?

I guess just like the saying goes, “we should be happy with what we have.”

Maybe, I said, but what about the saying, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

I told him that the world needs his stories and that little boys and girls who have brown skin, like him, deserve to see main characters who look like them in their media. If we don’t see them, we shouldn’t sit complacently, we should ask for them and more importantly, we should create them.

Teenage Boy Sitting On Sofa At Home Watching Television

I’m having more conversations about race with my children, in a very intentional way.

Sewing seeds.

I need my children to understand the country we live in wasn’t necessarily designed for them, but it needs them. They have an important role to play now and in the future. If they don’t understand that perceptions are both created for and skewed by a dominant culture, then they might mistake this perception for their reality. But it’s not the whole truth, far from it.

Do you have conversations about race with your children? Are you scared to talk about it? I’d love to hear more.

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Written by Shara

December 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm