I apologize as this comes off as disrespectful to Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin. Or their families. Or YOU, the reader. I’m not about that. That’s not why I drew this.
I am just really freaked out that 40% of Americans (and 47% of White Americans) do not think that the killings and violence in Ferguson ‘raise any racial issues.’ Fellow White Persons, this is our chance to learn. This is our chance to change.
When Trayvon Martin was murdered because Full Grown Men in America are frightened to violence by the presence black children, the dialogue turned very quickly into a conversation about gun control.
And gun control is an issue that deserves our attention.
But it won’t change the massive poverty in Black America. The arrest rate. The education statistics. The institutional, systemic, casual, or passive racism that plagues our country.
And it wouldn’t have saved Michael Brown.
Anyway. I’m sorry if this comes off as disrespectful or insincere or preachy. I’m sorry if my execution (or personality) gets in the way of what I’m trying to say. I am an imperfect artist, an imperfect person, and I am, undoubtedly, blinded to a million things by my own glaring whiteness. So this might be… Lord, this might be awful. I’m so sorry if it’s awful. Really.
But. I just keep thinking… Look, my wife is pregnant with our first child. A boy. We’re nervous, we’re excited, we’re SO ANXIOUS because what the hell do you do with babies? WE don’t know. But if we were a black family… in this country… we would be so terrified. Because we live in a nation that murders the children of black parents, puts it on the news WITH RIOTS AND TEAR GAS as decoration, and still half of us don’t even see it as a problem. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine bringing a child into that reality, to face the odds we lay out for black kids?
That would break me. I’ve never known anything like that. No one should ever know anything like that.
So let’s talk to our friends about race. Lets talk to our families. And when actual victims of racism try to tell us what’s going on in, say, a peaceful community protest as they are being gassed and shot at by cops WE SHOULD LISTEN TO AND BELIEVE THEM. Let’s talk to each other about this until we are all on the same page.
And then let’s turn the damn page.
This is very important, especially for us artists and other people who create content for the media. Because one place where things like this start is us. It’s a big thing.
What I really wanna talk about is how we potray such things as race, or rather what kind of roles we give to people who happen to be black or Asian or what ever.
Here in Finland, at least in bigger places, you can see the whole spectrum of human kind walking the streets even though most of us are white finnish or swedish speaking kind. But just walking by people on the streets is not gonna make us used to them or to know them. In all the schools I went and jobs that I’ve had and hobbies I’ve done there were never black people, so I can’t claim to have this token black person as a friend.Of course I’ve met a bunch, friends and relatives of others, all very nice and ordinary people. But those are not the kind of people we see in the media.
When we see black people in the papers or in the TV, it’s Children suffering in a hazy concept of Africa, it’s crazy women screaming in a wedding show and picking a fight, it’s aggressive rappers gone to jail and tattooed all over, it’s that useless black guy in a movie who has no personality ‘cause his gonna die first anyway, it’s sexy women dancing in a music video, it’s yet another group of Somalians that have stolen something, it’s an athlete winning everybody, it’s a violent civil war somewhere far away where they’re making children into soldiers, or it’s a funny guy making a fool of himself, or it’s a document about slavery, or a tribe in the jungle and they all seem very primitive now don’t they since we can’t even understand their language?
And this is what we see while growing up and if we never happen to meet any back people in the real life that’s all we’re ever gonna think about them. ( Of course there are those who don’t believe all that they see or know that what they see isn’t all and are willing to educate themselves.)
So imagine that you’re a black kid, watching that. What you can be is crazy aggressive stereotype, a thug, a victim, a joke, a servant to others, a nobody, a criminal, a curiosity for whites to stare at, but if you’re sexy or funny or train all your life to become perfect and strong and win everybody you’ll be accepted. Not for the main role, but to the back row, as a trophy to prove that racism is dead and gone. What would that do to you, a little kid not ready to question what you’re being told. What is it doing to all of us, right now, as we speak?
SO WHEN YOU CREATE
Question yourself, for all those kids who can’t do that yet.
-Why is this person white?
-Could he be black, Asian, gypsy, Arab, or something else?
-If not, why not? Is it essential for the plot that they’re white?
( By the way, if you’re thinking, “I’m just being historically accurate, there weren’t black people there,” or “There are no black people in that area it would look out of place,” THAT’S BULLSHIT first of all just because they weren’t mentioned doesn’t mean they weren’t there, secondly, we’re not here to repeat the past but to write the future, for the kids still to come. The next generation is already so much more used to this global and multicultural environment so why shouldn’t our art and stories reflect their reality? The reality when races didn’t mix and appear in the same places is already a fantasy worth letting go of.)
-Why is this person black, Asian, etc?
-Does his/her/their character strengthen the stereotypes that there already exist about their cultural/racial background?
-If so, why do you wan’t to do that? Do you wan’t to do that?
-Do these characters have other interesting qualities to them than their race? Would they still be interesting if they were white? Are they interesting at all, are they even proper characters? Do they bring something to the story, to the plot, are they active, are they important?
-Could you ever look at these characters as role models? If not, why not?
- Are the whites in your story a majority? Why so? Could they be a minority, and if not, why not?
-Are the most important characters in your story white? If so, why? What do you want to tell with that?
-Is there (for example) only this one black guy in your story? Why is he/she there? Why aren’t there more of them?
-Could you turn all your white characters (yes the main ones too) into something else, black, Arab, Chinese, Indian, Italian and still feel the same about them? If not, why not?
-Did these questions make you feel uneasy? If so, why?
Plus, if you think that you don’t know enough about other cultures to pull stuff of, COME ON, open your eyes. For example lots of the black people here in Finland where born and raised in here, they speak the same language, go to the movies, do sports, fall in love and act stupid and get in trouble and dream big, go to school and work and have children and families and holidays. It’s kinda silly, that though it’s really important that we talk about that, skin is just skin, race or cultural background don’t define a person. Although cultural specialties, like habits and sayings and values and history would add a nice touch, if that’s the only thing standing in your way, don’t get too tangled up on it. If you feel like it, you can do research on the fly.
I hope this helps or wakes some thoughts and talking! I’m far from being perfect with this stuff myself but I’ve come a long way already, and it’s never too late. At least ask yourself why you have certain preferences when telling a story, so even if you didn’t change anything, you might discover some interesting stuff about yourself.