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"The truth is racism begins in our imagination. It begins with our stories. It begins with how we perceive others, how we depict them, how we imagine them to be, and what we can imagine for them. If we are to create a different world, we must first imagine it. That starts with actually seeing people and representing them accurately in the spaces they occupy, even the imagined ones..."

  – Grisel Y. Acosta, "Racism Begins in Our Imagination"

Stories Have Power

In the midst of pain and protest in the USA over repeated violence from the state (via police) against black people, and in the aftermath of racially-charged terrorism in Charleston, we must remember how powerful stories are. Among all the tragedies that have unfolded from systemic and structural issues across the country, a only few have risen to mass awareness over the last few years. The way the mainstream media covered their deaths, the way people took the story into their own hands via social media, the way the ensuing protests have been portrayed all have power in shaping the long-term outcomes of these tragedies and these demands for justice.

But there are other stories that have power, too, including ones that may at first seem far removed from the Baltimore Uprising and Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter and church shootings.

Grisel Y. Acosta, in an opinion piece titled "Racism Begins in Our Imagination," makes a brilliant point: "In what imaginary Texas would [the characters in the film Boyhood] not be surrounded by people of Mexican descent?" And yet, that movie is hardly alone among critically-acclaimed Hollywood films that whitewash a particular locale and erase nonwhite people and culture within the fictionalized space.

And this isn't limited to film. Personally, I love so much about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but for the parts of the show set on a fictionalized UC campus, the whiteness was overwhelming—where were the Asians, who comprise a significant portion of any UC student body?

When whiteness is the default in art and entertainment, not only are perspectives and cultures erased, but our ability as individuals and as a society to see the potential in nonwhites—regardless of our own race—becomes limited. Stories are powerful tools of empathy, of perspective-taking, of learning, and of compassion. Stories harness our emotions and leave imprints on us, even if the plot details and character names start to fade from our minds.

We cannot be what we cannot see, even if we're only seeing it in our mind's eye. As individuals and as a society, we need fictionalized spaces in art and entertainment that offer a glimpse at real human beings who are not white by default.

Want to empower others for good? Avoid:

  •   promoting the "white savior"/"white man's burden" trope -- see Acosta's article and also for more informal reading:…
  •   erasing people/communities/cultures of color in your chosen setting --…
  •   racial stereotypes making their way into character traits
  •   sweeping generalizations that omit other racial/ethnic experiences
  •   adopting tired ethnic tropes without adding any human nuance, even if the tropes are not stereotypes per say…
  •   a white protagonist who enters nonwhite community/culture and becomes a leader/master/expert and/or gets nonwhite princess to fall in love --… -- think Avatar movie
It's okay to not have racial diversity in your art/entertainment all the time! But it is not okay to lack diversity by default, or to erase the ethnic identity of a place because it is too "difficult"/audiences "wouldn't like it"/the "best" actors are white etc. Own up to your choices as a creator of these fictionalized spaces and characters. Own up to your responsibility as the creator of stories that have power. Your intention is not very relevant, but your impact is.

Learn More:

AND...a feature! Some beautiful visual art <3

83156 by aleksandra88 Warfield2009 by ShaudaySmith #USTired2 by DarkMirime Look To The Future by DragonTreasureArt Mwanza by day-seriani Beautiful Blue by Low-Fuel Dontshoot Whip by Souliers BlackLivesMatter I by JennieDoomsday Love Bird by BeaGifted Nike by MichaelO A Great Man Once Said... by Lavoi Speak Up by WRDBNR consejos tacticos by oscarsnapshotter Hands in the Air by RednBlackSalamander  Fashion Icon. by ZombiexGirl Disproportionate by PurplePeaches Tara 1 by renynzea Game Over by sean08 glow in the dark by loish

Have something to say about the topic or this journal? Please feel free to comment, or send me a note! And give some love to the artists :love:



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leoatelier Featured By Owner 16 hours ago   General Artist
Thanks for adding one of my captures to your faves:)
Much appreciated!
MollyMcMolly Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the llama!
cricketumpire Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
"Precision flying..." gives a whole new meaning to 'in flight refuelling'  flying on the spot :flowerdread:     

Thanks so much for faving it Pinballwitch   highfive   Please do keep on watching???
Thebit846 Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you for the Llama. :)
NSolanki Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2015   Photographer
Thank you for the favourite add :)
katagro Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2015  Student Artist
Cubone / charity collab by katagro
thank you so much for the fave :heart:
It means a lot for me!! :love:
PoesDaughter Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2015  Professional Writer
Thank you for the :+devwatch: I appreciate it! :hug:
ShittyChickenBang Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2015
Thank you kindly for the llama!
jellybear07 Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the llama :hug:
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