For a while now I’ve seen the discussion on why it’s a great idea to change characters who were depicted as one thing, to another thing in order to fit a specific agenda. With diversity being more and more prominent and important than ever before, people want to see themselves depicted heroically or villainy. I understand where this idea comes from and, I see their point of view and why many would want that, but in my opinion, I simply can’t agree with that notion.
You see, for me, I’ve always said this: “I’d rather have an original character, with his/her own background story and a well-written plot”. I’ve never been too keen on characters that have been changed, just to fill a slot for diversity. These characters weren’t written with a clear heart and soul, and because of that, it lacks heavily. It just feels like they’re trying to cash in on the demand for diversity. They’re not written to start a legacy, but to only leech off another hero’s legacy. A great example of this that many can not deny is “What if… Miles Morales”! That comic encapsulates it all so well.
I mean it’s great for the young readers who are growing up wanting heroes or villains who look like them and can relate with them on core bases but the overall picture is that those characters, in my opinion, will always be seen as “blank-version of that white character”. It will always give that message of, white is the default and any variation of that is an alternative. That’s how I feel with most of these new Marvel/DC/whatever heroes and villains sometimes.
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 African/Black is nothing to them! It’s also a way for African/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 African/Black/ Dark-skinned people! I mean think about it? What good does it do to the psyche of an African/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 an African/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! This simply isn’t true, given the character is written exceptionally well!
Look, I know their end goal is to just pretend that by Blackwashing characters long enough, those who’ll come after us long into the future won’t even realize that they were once white characters, heck it happened to me! Characters that I thought were original and unique turned out to be Blackwashed versions of White characters. Once I learned that truth, I couldn’t see the characters as the original anymore. He/she felt like a fraud, an alternate version of the original character!n It made me become more aware of the deceit. When I tried to point this out, I was called all sorts of names, hurtful ones. I didn’t get it, and it angered me even more!
It goes beyond being accurate to the source material, it felt like they’re being hypocrites to the very method they once scorned and condemned. I mean, just try and whitewash an African/Black character in a fanart and see the hell you’ll unleash. There’s a psychological effect at play here. There’s also integrity and pride at stake. African/Black people who want to be respected by everyone, are doing or championing things that will ultimately be used to make fun of them. Have you ever wondered why African/Black people are more active and adamant to see characters Blackwashed, instead of being more vocal to support new stories that involve new characters? How vocal they are to be included in fiction that honestly never planned on having an African/Black character in it? How they celebrate a Blackwashed character in a way to gloat and mock others? Heck, even fanart has this trend where they do it to be “seen”. I’ve noticed it and it’s quite unhealthy in my own opinion.
And to add fuel to the fire, when said Blackwashed character has actually been accepted by the majority and gets criticized as many other fictional characters have before, they turn incredibly defensive and assume the criticism stems from their race. I mean look no further than Amber from Invincible! I actually don’t even believe Black people are ready to be seen in media on a global level if this is how they react! I’ve heard every argument for Blackwashing, and not a single one has made any logical sense to me. Every argument, all of them, revolve around an emotional plea, devoid of all reasons! It’s very clear that Blackwashing in Hollywood is a ploy to pander to an emotionally unstable community while waving the “virtuous savior” flag! A ploy to strengthen their hold and cement this idea that everything on “that side” is what you want to be.
It all comes down to hiring writers, storytellers, artists, and creators of different backgrounds who are passionate about telling stories and are capable of casually creating characters of diversity without making it feel like they are there just to fill an agenda. With Black Panther and Black Lightning being received in such a positive light, it shows me that it can be done, we just need to get the right people for the job.
They’ll tell you that now there are more Black actors, voice actors, screenwriters, directors, etc but there’s a catch. Basically, what I’m trying to get at is, no matter what approach we take to bring ourselves to the world, we’re always answering to “somebody”. And that “somebody” decided whether you get funded/supported or not! And if “they” don’t like what you have envisioned, they’ll tell you to change it or scrap it!
Black people are never in full control of their image, and the only reason why we’re seeing a push in diversity is simply that it’s trending. And like all trends, it will fade eventually as we’re starting to see. The only way for representation to truly matter is when we assume total control of our image! We need to find a way to create everything ourselves without being dependent on Hollywood to do right by us. We need to stop asking and expecting other industries to represent us right and honestly! We’re never going to go anywhere if we keep waiting. I’m glad I’m seeing a movement of creators stepping forward and taking control but it’s not enough.
Now the other side of this coin is the representation in reality. I’m sorry to say this, but a lot of the bad images we as an African/ Black community are dealing with as of recently are by our own hands. We are responsible for the type of stuff we put out into the world. So no matter how great the media is about African/Black people, if a large portion of us continue to upload videos on TikTok, YouTube, or any other media site, videos that show us degrading ourselves, showing us in a bad light, or just pure toxicity behavior, it will diminish the effect. Seriously, it’s very easy to find a video of a Black person or group making a fool out of themselves online, yet I can’t remember the last time I saw an Asian or Arab recording themselves doing something stupid based on their race/ethnic group and going viral for it. And that’s another problem. A lot of Black people have been condition mentality to seek out clout and recognition, so much so that they’re willing to throw their own community under the bus. And if you criticize them, they’ll brush it off and call you a hater, or heck even racist.
So in conclusion, if we want representation to truly matter, we must assume total control of it, both in fiction and in reality, and we must do it ourselves, otherwise, we’re destined to be at the mercy of how everyone else sees us. I understand that we gotta start somewhere and entering the industry is tough, but it’s possible. And more importantly, we have to start calling our own out more!
Let me know what you guys think? I’m curious to see how everyone feels about this topic.