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Various forms of media have come a long way regarding black representation. The challenge is navigating those tropes properly without disrespecting a race maligned by history and colonization.
There is an inspiring thought about black people being seen in a standard light in popular media. Every black kid watching a black-led superhero movie, or a black female singer making it big in the music industry, would feel a lot of awe.
They would probably say things like, “Wow, this person looks like me!” in a sense, like seeing a fellow black person shine onscreen where white privilege has been dominant for the past few decades. Being marginalized led these young ones to believe there was no avenue where they could be what they wanted. This is why the fight for equality in such a saturated and competitive platform continues.
The lack of black in writing
Although there has been significant progress since then, the discourse in some areas still needs to be improved. Literature, for example.
The range of black representation in books throughout history has become too complicated to talk about. There’s the issue of who’s qualified to represent who; and other questions that everyone in this sphere has to consider.
Black people are barely represented in literature. It is a largely alarming issue as literature has been around for ages, even to the beginning that civilization rose to life. Or, the stone carvings during the Paleolithic period were the earliest forms of writing known to man.
In the past, it took a lot of work to disregard social structure.Breaking the conventions of the time by aggressively adding more representation is a complex task. Other people may even think it’s asking for too much. Although a few classical writers could’ve had the power of inclusion, they didn’t utilize them anyway, which speaks volumes of the typical perception of Black people back in the day.
Literature should’ve done better throughout history.The call for Black representation in books does not imply the diminishing of classical writers and their accomplishments. Black people didn’t have access to creating literary stories, which is very unfortunate.
Modern-day literature has more representation than before.These days have been better for Black literature because diversity as a concept didn’t have much ground back. At the same time, Black people desire to stand for themselves in that scene, giving genuine recognition. This movement requires non-black writers to participate in the struggle for change.
Literature should be all-encompassing due to the complexity of research and character building, not to mention the heavy consideration and empathy of being in a Black person’s shoes. This is a dilemma that non-Black writers have to deal with. They don’t know what it’s like to live as a Black person in a once-segregated land. The horrors of oppression are beyond their comprehension, which is why they tend to create a negative mindset toward audiences who are out of touch with a Black person’s pain.
Having this “Savior Complex” is also a problem that other White writers have.When portraying such controversial narratives, they tend to think they’re giving Black people a chance to stand up for themselves. But in reality, there is a significant difference between how they perceive the marginalized and how the oppressed genuinely feel. Their limited perspective on racial injustice causes a stir when they make an out-of-touch statement.
Thinking that Black people need “saving” from a white person is silencing their voices.Reinforcing this act through literature defeats the purpose of fighting for equal rights. It should be a Black person who tells the story and won’t need anyone to cover for them, as they know best what happens and what can be done to make change happen.
This doesn’t mean that non-Black people can’t write about social injustice, particularly race. The least they could do is be as dedicated as they could, with great understanding. Non-Black writers should let go of the mentality that Black people owe them a lot for putting them where they should be. When in fact, Black people deserve all the recognition and respect for being who they are in a nation that’s so far divided by skin color and socio-political beliefs.
What should be done in terms of Black literary representation
More often than not, any Black person would appreciate anyone who is thoughtful and will put in all the effort to write Black stories and well-developed characters. As long as there aren’t reinforced stereotypes against them, writing about Black people in books is still great for them to be heard. The significance of Blackness in every media platform creates avenues for other POC to shine and be given equal opportunities in the future. Black people should be given a chance to represent themselves well. An example would be King Bell’s book on different race relations in America. If you are someone who got the opportunity, whether you’re a person of color or not, let Black people be, and they will show their best to the world.