…. And that is hypocrisy. And people realize that. So stop complaining.
…if it goes both ways (which it clearly doesn’t) we’d be seeing a lot more diversity, actually.
I have nothing to add, besides my vehement agreement, but my humble prayer to fate: please let Michael B. Jordan get the role in Fantastic Four…it would be great if one of the things he was doing was being a superhero, and a small step against casting like Khan in Star Trek, Talia and Bane in Batman, Tonto in the Lone Ranger, Nora in Warm Bodies, Irene-changed-from-Irina in Drive, and all of the Last Airbender.
I can only add that it does matter. It matters a whole lot times a million. My child continually asks when they will make the Spider-Man movie with Miles Morales. He loves Nick Fury. He wonders why batman, superman, and just about every other major superhero is white. Sure, there are some black characters, but when you see a young black boy wondering why there aren’t any in his favorite roles, you’ll understand this isn’t hypocrisy. Not at all. A six year old is just speaking from his heart.
Does he also ask about people with power in real life and their races? I hope you explain to him that different paces have a different diversity of skin colors and that no one can help the way they look when they’re born. (Including superheroes.) As a child its not a very good sign to be so concerned about skin color. Our concern for skin color does not rise out of our natural curiosity but from what we learn from our environment. Children, at first of course, dont care about skin color until their environment tells them they should care about skin color. Perhaps it would be wise to to reiterate that everyone is born equal and uniqe and should be comfortable in their skin and have confidence. No one should need a super hero that looks like them to make them think their race/nationality is one they should feel secure in.
people should teach their kids to feel secure about their skin color and how to be respectful to those with different skin colors
When I read these statements I felt a lump in my throat. I feel confident in unequivocally stating that they can be at once “sensible” and at the same time, ignorant and unhelpful. Here’s my break down of why:
"No one can help the way they look when they are born" This is absolutely true. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge to children that the way you are born impacts how fairly society treats you (see below.) Tumblr user sjwhypocrisy goes on to say that superheroes cannot help the way they look when they are born. It is important to note that superheroes are not “born"—they are created. They are created by writers, artists, marketers, companies, media conglomerates, and media consumers. Many of these entities have great control over how these superheroes look.
It is disingenuous and confusing to mislead children into thinking that superheroes just happen to be nearly all straight white able-bodied cis men, especially the important ones, by pure accident of birth.
Why is it harmful to not explain these contexts to kids? Thankfully, there are a number of researchers studying children, how they consume media, how they develop self-concepts, and how they experience race. Rather than wishful thinking, look at the established research on child developmental psychology. Newsweek published a great article about it in 2009 (which talks about how kids are naturally curious about skin color, actually.) Our website has also interviewed different researchers to learn more about how the media influences kids:
It is critical that children see all sorts of people playing both the good and the bad roles in media. Otherwise, they may take those absences as meaningful and it may affect how they understand social categories. And it is certainly important for kids to be able to identify with heroes that they feel represent who they are as people.
Kids are really left to trying to figure out themselves what it means to be black, white, Asian, Latino…
So they construct ideas based on what they see in the media, the model. And it’s implicit, not explicit. And it doesn’t take a while to look around and see that in the media, white people do better stuff than black people and mostly the representations of Asians are so few and far between.
…Pretty much all kids know that all of the past presidents have been white. By the time kids are six, the majority of six year olds know all the presidents have been white and men….kids are not dumb. They know that being President is about having power, and being smart, and having good leadership skills.
When we did our study, we asked kids why there aren’t any black or girl presidents and one-third of the kids said “They’re not smart enough to be. They’re not strong enough to be. They have bad leadership skills. They must be bad at it.” That makes sense to them, because no one has explained otherwise to them, and they are trying to figure it out. I remember interviewing a girl who said girls can’t be president because they’re not as smart as boys. To hear that coming from a girl, that just breaks your heart.
This causes a problem when children don’t have regular “real-life” contact with people of other racial or ethnic groups, because their only knowledge of them then comes from television, and they’re likely to buy into the stereotypes, as well as pick up on a subtle message that non-whites are not as important–since they’re not portrayed as often, nor are they frequently portrayed in the “hero” roles.
It is important that children see themselves represented on television – not just in terms of race, but also in terms of socioeconomic status and family structure. Being represented on television makes them feel “normal” – that there are others like them.
For white, middle-class children this is usually not a problem. But for minorities, children from lower-socioeconomic status families, and children in single-parent, blended, or mixed-race families, this is not always the case. They either don’t see themselves represented at all, or they see negative stereotyped representations of themselves. This can over time influence children’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth and “fitting in.”
…Exposure to positive role models and heroic characters of various cultural backgrounds will send the message that all racial/ethnic groups are important and that they all have positive characteristics. The more equally diverse children’s programming is, the more “normal” it will be for children to identify with and associate with people of other racial groups.
It’s like telling a parent with a child who is gayand being bullied “Just teach your child that everyone is equal and unique and they should be confident. Teach your kid to feel secure about being gay and be respectful to other people regardless of their sexuality. Teach your kid they don’t need gay role models to feel secure. If you do that, your child won’t feel internalized self-loathing or become depressed or suicidal. If you do that, then they won’t care about the bullies.”
Except, hey! Parents are already doing that. Not all of them, but many of them. Just as many parents of children of color teach their kids exactly what you say they should be teaching. It isn’t enough.
whimsicalstacie’s kid wants a TV show with Miles Morales not because she is failing to do those things, but because it is completely normal and expected for little kids to have an in-group bias and to desire superheroes and other role model characters who look like them. The difference is that this completely normal desire is indulged in white children—especially boys—and denied to children of color.
Ultimately, these statements blame parents of children of color for something they cannot completely mitigate. Most parents are all for telling kids that everyone is unique and special and that we should all be treated equally, but they cannot protect their kids from seeing people being treated unequally. If we want to impress these values on future generations, we should fight systemic inequities as portrayed in the media and in real life.