Minorities versus Whitewashing
Whitewashing has been an issue for many decades, but not a lot of people know anything about it. If u have never heard of the term, you might think that it has to do with the white race or just race in general and that is correct to a degree. As a general definition whitewashing is an act of consciously covering up acts of crime or wrongdoing, but it also is the act of providing misinformation about a certain subject or even completely changing its history. This issue is prevalent in many different forms and in each generation, it presents itself differently than the last. The education system in some states has failed to teach its students the proper and appropriate history of many historical figures and historical events. The storytelling and film industry is also contributing to whitewashing by casting people to represent a certain race to which they do not belong to. This may not seem like a big of a deal especially if you are not a minority, meanwhile, whitewashing can cause a lot of issues, particularly in young people who might not get as much representation in the media and other social outlets.
Have you heard of the term whitewashing before?
In a TED talk with David Ikard who is an African American and cultural studies professor, we get to see what it is like when the educational system fails to teach children about their own history. In the talk, Ikard talks about an experience with his son, Elijah. Elijah tells Ikard what he learned about Rosa Parks at school, Elijah tells him that the teacher said she was an old woman who had tired feet and that was the reason she refused to give up her seat. Ikard, knowing that this information is wrong was not too impressed by what his son just said. Ikard tells his sons what Rosa Parks was actually like and tells him that he would buy him her autobiography so that he actually knows the real history of the events. Ikard then realizes that he has to go address this issue with Elijah’s teacher which he was not too enthusiastic about, then Elijah suggests an idea. He says that his school gave him a public speaking assignment and that he would like to take that chance to talk about this issue. When Ikard asks Elijah how it went he says that the teacher pulled him aside afterward and apologized, and the next day she decided to make a new lesson about Rosa Parks and fill the gaps she had left from the other lesson. While the teacher apologized and made time for another lesson correcting what she said before, this is still an issue because if it was not for Ikard his son and other classmates would have grew up thinking that Rosa Parks was not a brave black woman who fought for her rights and would have otherwise viewed her as an old lady who had tired feet. This is infuriating because a young child like Elijah should not be concerned with correcting their teacher about their own culture instead of having fun and enjoying their childhood as any other kid would.
Did your school also teach you that Rosa Parks was just an “old, tired” lady?
Following the narrative of Rosa Parks unearths a whole story of defaced figures and sometimes even erased figures. These stories of activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks have been cherry-picked, their images have been watered down to fit households comfortably as symbols for love and unity. Their images in fact are symbols of bravery, innovation, and unity as they challenged white supremacy in very harsh ways. Many people know of Rosa Parks as the woman that assisted the end of segregation by refusing to go to the back of the bus, but rarely anyone knows about her investigating the sexual assaults and rapes of black women by white men years before she refused to give up her seat. Black women would get raped by white men because they knew they would face no consequences, the stonewall riots and were largely thanks to the efforts of black trans women but the accomplishments are credited to white men, the existence of black gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members such as, Bayard Rustin, who was left out of history books due to his sexuality and homophobia he received from both white and black activist. All of these events have either been erased from history books or whitewashed to be less graphic and more family friendly. However, without discomfort, there will never be change. If these watered-down stories keep getting passed down to generations people will never want to change anything, because why would you want to change something that is not broken, right?
Did you know that Rosa Parks was an investigator of sexual assaults and rape cases against black women?
The most significant impact of the lack of representation of minorities and whitewashing them is the effect it has on its children as they are growing. As a young African American, children may wonder why they do not look like white people on the TV or in books, and as they grow older, they might begin to resent what they look like. Instead of actually embracing it and being proud of it. Whitewashing in media negatively impacts children in the Black community and aids in the robbery of their childhood. The lack of representation in minorities might not seem like it is of great importance, but it plays a major part in the development of children and how they perceive the world and themselves.
Have you ever felt misrepresented or noticed that you were not represented at all in any type of media?
I first became aware of the topic of whitewashing in high school teacher talked about how The Hate U Give’s movie was different from the book and how they had to “whitewash” it for the more general audience. At first, I thought that whitewashing is only referring to race, but now I know that it can be about anything really. Whitewashing is the defacing of minority features or people by providing false information or changing the race of a person. I am interested in this topic because as a minority myself I know what it feels like to have a lack of representation or have the work of your race credited to another, let alone the changing of important people to another race. I was inspired by my curiosity, I wanted to know more and more about the topic, I wanted to know who was affected by whitewashing and what misinformation have we been fed as facts throughout our lives. This project was an opportunity for me to learn more about the topic while also teaching other people who may have never heard of it, or if they heard of it but do not know how serious or dreadful it is. I decided to write an interactive article that has polls throughout it to keep the reader engaged and interested while also relating to experiences they had or may have noticed. I settled on targeting filmmakers and storytellers as my audience especially those who write and create for the youth, as their creations reach a very big crowd, thus arguably having a big impact on people young or old. I talked about the parts of my research that I thought were surprising to me and thought many people would not know of them. I hope that my piece raises awareness on the issue of whitewashing and helps make an impact on the efforts of putting an end to whitewashing. I think that an interactive article best fits my goal because it will seem serious while also being entertaining enough to keep the readers engaged and not get distracted and stray off the topic. I want the readers, i.e., filmmakers and storytellers to realize the negative impact whitewashing has and that they have the power to change that and teach future generations to be proud of their differences and embrace their backgrounds especially in a time where many people try to shame and attack certain cultures. So far, I like what I have done, and I think that many people will benefit from it. I want other minorities to understand that there is no need to hide from what makes us special and that they should look for beauty in themselves and their backgrounds. It is very important to be aware of your own background and also do not share misinformation about other people’s cultures and if you are interested in certain subjects or people do proper research to find the true history behind them. If I were to do this project again, I would make sure to build on different subjects and minority groups.