Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Post-Racial" My Pasty White Butt

First Trayvon Martin, a young African American in Florida, gets shot because he "looked" like he might be a threat. He looked like a threat because he was black and wearing a hoodie, that's it. He wasn't armed, he wasn't "up to no good," he was walking home from the local 7/11. While there was plenty of media outcry against the shooting, some people believe that he was "asking" to be shot simply for "dressing like a thug." Which is weird because white people wear hoodies all the time and aren't called thugs for doing so.

Not too long after this news broke, the Hunger Games came out and people were SHOCKED to see little Rue being played by an African American actress - even though the character in the book is clearly specified as having brown skin. Twitter exploded with people expressing disappointment and even rage that Rue wasn't the innocent, white, blonde girl they imagined, and was instead just "some black girl." Some people actually said it ruined the movie for them. Some were also annoyed that Cinna was also played by an African American, though he was never written as a black man he could have been any race. I think I did, however, picture him as having dark, cinnamon colored skin because of the name. Again, there was disappointment that the two "good characters" in the movie were black.

Why can't the good people be black?

What no one has pointed out yet is that the Twilight movies, particularly the first, had some racial casting as well. None of the characters, to my knowledge, were specified in the book as being non-Caucasian, but in the movie two of Bella's school friends were Asian, and the guy who almost kills her with his van and one of the "bad" vampires are both African American. I'll be honest, these casting choices were certainly unexpected, but they weren't unpleasant surprises, and to my knowledge there was no public outburst of rage regarding these casting choices.

Perhaps the difference, why people were okay with the Twilight guys being black and not Rue, has to do with this still pervasive idea that innocent equals white, and black equals up to no good. Though we don't, or at least shouldn't, equate white with innocence as the real bad guys in Hunger Games are all white and so are the really evil vampires in the Twilight franchise (Laurent does try to kill Bella in one movie, but he's nowhere near as sinister and evil as James and Victoria, and of course all the members of the Volturi are white; the Twilight franchise does, however, have its own racial issues I'm not going to touch in this post). These two recent media explosions regarding race should be an indicator that we're not post racial. We're not all racist, but many people still cling to harmful stereotypes about people of color.

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