This topic is a pretty sensitive one for some people, but not for me! After pondering on this subject, I wanted to share my opinion on Blackwashing & Whitewashing. Why one is considered wrong and the other considered OK!
Blackwashing & Whitewashing is a topic that I’m sure you’ve come across on any media related content! It’s the discussion that has raged on for years now and frankly has gotten quite out of control! I don’t want to run down the history of both of these words, so I’ll provide a simple short explanation.
Whitewashing is when you turn any non-white characters white, while Blackwashing is when you turn any non-black characters black! Unlike Blackwashing, however, Whitewashing has had an extensive history in media, often replacing non-white original characters in TV, comics, movies, books etc, for the simple fact of “universal appeal”! This ranges from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who was written originally to be Black to the blasphemes Gods of Egypt that decided to cast an all-white cast to an African historical time period! You get the idea, you can find examples like these throughout time. Back then, White people were on unrelenting warfare to never showcase any non-whites in a positive light or rob them of identity.
Blackwashing to some people is seen as a counter to Whitewashing, an effort to undo the wrong done by the years of Whitewashing! An admirable yet foolish and futile effort.
The argument for Blackwashing that I’ve seen online ranges from the fact that it does not harm White people in any way, seeing as they have a plethora of white fictional characters, so turning one or ten of them Black is nothing to them! It’s also a way for Black people to see “themselves” in a media otherwise saturated with light-skinned individuals. Well, it may not “hurt” white people generally, but Blackwashing actually hurts Black/ Dark-skinned people! I mean think about it? What good does it do to the psyche of a Black/Dark-skinned person knowing that the characters they see on screen are just a re-skin of an originally white character?
If anything, Blackwashing a character is the biggest insult you could possibly dish out to a Black person! It shows a lack of respect and creativity! It reinforces that NO ONE would support a character if they were originally dark-skinned! Which simply isn’t true, given the character is written exceptionally well!
White people or Light-skins have years of a solid foundation of fictional characters at their disposal, (some whitewashed, but mostly originals) to claim! And even to this day, more original white characters are being created! They are putting in the effort to continue to showcase light-skinned people in new and innovative ways. Dark-skins, however? Nah, let’s just grab a white legacy character of the shelf and paint them black! That will satisfy their weak and insecure minds for a while. How can you say representation with your chest out when all they’re doing is swap skin-tones? What you want is a legacy, not a trend. Trends die, legacies live on forever!
Now, I’m not going to sit here and act like creators aren’t working on original dark-skinned characters across the world, but if you notice, many of them are not been supported by Hollywood or the crowd that demands them! No funding, no investment, no nothing! Almost as if that’s not on their agenda! Almost as if Hollywood cares more about safe money than risky endeavors. There’s also another reason!
There are thousands of creators out there working on new unique worlds with interesting Black characters, yet many aren’t being supported as much as you’d expect. Why is that? I’ve done my best to highlight those that I can find with compelling narratives here, however, there is a problematic theme I’ve noticed with other creators that venture out to create their own Black characters! Their sole focus is on skin colour of said characters. Racism, Gang wars, “the struggle”, you get the idea! There’s nothing wrong with telling your own story, but when it becomes the majority with no variety it’s a problem.
Most of them are written solely on the fact that they’re black and nothing else! There’s hardly any appeal to that, no soul! That’s another side-effect Blackwashing is having on the space, it’s sending out the wrong message.
Most of these new narratives aren’t subtle with their message and oftentimes feel like a lecture rather than a story! The characters have no personality and are easily forgotten. It’s a gripe I’ve had for years and don’t see changing any time soon. Few manage to bypass this, but the trend is there! Narratives are vital to any successful story, people want to explore a new possibility, rather be reminded of their grim reality.
So far I’ve talked about official licensed works, which is an important aspect, however, I’d like to touch on fan arts for a minute. I’ve seen many people complain about how the Black characters that are created, are often drawn with lighter complexion.
Is this true? Yes! Is it an inherent bias? Yes! Is it often done out of malice? Sometimes, hard to prove! Will it replace the official character? No!
Look, it’s very clear that people with inherent colorist bias will draw dark-skinned characters lighter. They’ll come up with every excuse under the sun, but the fact of the matter is, the moment they decide to change the skin of a character to be lighter, it’s bias and nothing else. Trust me, I’m well aware of this! It’s amazing how we’ll get many fanart version of the white character’s complexion perfect all the time, yet when it comes to the black characters, their shade is always lighter without fail! Always!
Now, that being said, I feel like it’s a waste of time to go out of your way to complain about a bloody fan art of lighter drawn dark-skinned character! It’s futile! You’re better off just moving on or drawing your own version. Not to mention that people turn white characters black all the freaking time, so it’s difficult to have a stance when that happens. It’s the internet! If you can imagine it, it’s out there! It’s fan art, if they want to redraw the character however way they want, then that’s that! You can always skip it!
Overall, what’s more, important is to focus our attention to create legacies, not trends! We also gotta make sure not to make ourselves look like hypocrites either. If you’re going to get mad when an official licensed Black character whether historically or not is turned white then you gotta keep that same energy when it happens vice versa! Both are wrong for different reasons.
SIDE NOTE: My debut light novel Red Rapture: Born Blessed To Walk A Cursed Reality! preorder page has gone up! If you’re into things like Fullmetal Alchemist, HunterXHunter, or Naruto then this light novel is right up your alley! You can pre-order it now on Amazon Kindle, and if you do please leave a review when it comes out!!!!