Here are a few videos that I made for my YouTube channel related to non-white history/culture.
The first set of videos was a series of interviews with a friend about her work as a curator and exploring race through her work. We also briefly discussed more inclusion in the curriculum generally. I am unsure what the experience of my readership is; however, when growing up, I was very much exposed to a white centric view of history. We had a bit of a mention of non-white people, but it was blacks, and the context was slavery. There was no talk of cultural/historical influence within society.
This lack of visibility of non-white individuals is important. If non-white individuals are more visible in the curriculum, then we can see what an integral part they are to our society. It also gives non-white individuals role models to look up to and visualise a wide range of life choices.
The focus mainly on white culture and white people in history has also meant that I feel very much like there are massive gaps in what I know about the rest of the world. I have spent the time since leaving university to some extent trying to fill in that gap. In my 20s and part of my 30s, I explored world cinema. Partway through my 30s, I started to look at literature from different parts of the world. It feels tricky exploring as I am not sure where to start. I have interviewed people to educate not just other people but also myself in terms of seeing what’s out there.
I have watched a range of cinema with non-white people; however, I’ve become more aware of representation and tokenism in cinema as I’ve grown older. Although, to some extent, films are improving, they still has a way to go. Take the Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’; it was great in that it showed a female character breaking into a stereotypically male field. However, while the film helps to readdress the balance in a male-dominated field, it doesn’t do much in terms of black people’s representation. In ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, we have the character Jolene who isn’t as developed as the other characters and seems to be included partially to move the story along rather than a character in her own right. While compiling the images for my interview on representation in cinema with a focus on black cinema, I looked up stats on black visibility on screen. I was interested to see 1) stats on non-white representation in film in general and also women in the top roles such as directing, 2) the number of non-speaking roles in film-the trend has been towards more non-white individuals having roles which didn’t involve speaking and 3) the stereotypical representation of non-white individuals in films. I believe it’s important to change this because:
You get films that represent people in ways that give you a more rounded perspective. More non-white directors mean a greater insight into non-white history and culture and less chance for stereotyping. More female representation higher up in film means more storylines about women that do not feature ideas about women or relationships which are undesirable or take women backwards. An example is how relationships are portrayed in films. Many films depict relationship which aren’t healthy. Male-directed films have presented relationships where the character has virtually stalked the women. No does mean no; in these films, no means, no for now! Also, higher numbers of females in the film industry could mean greater representation of women’s issues in films.
After doing the interviewing on black cinema, my sister and I watched Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman on Netflix. I would recommend BlackkKlansmen to anyone who’s not watched. It’s very much about a black individual who tries to tackle police’s attitude to black people by joining the police. It is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, who is hired as the first black police officer of the Colorado Springs police department. The film looks at working from the inside to change the system. As well as being a film that is in part a message about change coming from the inside (and racism being part of the system) it is also a message about racism on the fringes of society. The film looks at discrimination in law enforcement and then at a higher level as part of the US’s political structure. I felt it was in part a message for anyone who was anti-racist to get into and fight the system. At the same time, it shows how racism is part of the system, and it might have taken a slightly different form, but it’s still something that very much needs to be fought and that we should watch out for it and challenge it.
The other film my sister and I started to watch on Netflix was called ‘When they see us’ it’s a bit heavier than BlacKkKlansman and a difficult watch. It’s interesting as both BlacKkKlansman and ‘When they see us’ both featured a certain US president. In ‘When they see us’ he is seen commenting in the 1980s on the incarceration of black youths and in Blackkklansman he makes comments about Charlottesville. In the film ‘When they see us’ Trump askes for the death penalty for black youths incarcerated as they were believed to have attacked a white woman. When Trump asked for the death penalty, they were brought in due to being in the location of the crime. There was no evidence linking them to the actual crime. At the start of the series, we see the officer in charge of the investigation refer to the youths as thugs and talking as if they were already guilty. The series highlighted how people’s view of minority groups impacts how they are treated, in this case, viewed as guilty before any evidence was even examined. Another film on Netflix that I will get round to watching is 13th it’s a piece about the prison system in the US and how those incarcerated are overwhelmingly black. If we are to fight the system’s bias, we need more non-white film directors to provide an insight into what has been fought against in the past and how far we still need to go to obtain equality.
Finally, if one wants to be an ally to individuals underrepresented or discriminated against, it is important to educate oneself about the issues people face. It’s also interesting to learn about cultures different from the one in which you were bought up. I will continue to explore more of underrepresented individuals such as female directors, non-white people across cultures and history. I would appreciate any recommendations from people in this respect. Before I leave you, I talked to my sister about what I’ve yet to explore in terms of cinema; she suggested Nollywood. I will post more about my explorations throughout the year, and I’d love it if people could explore with me. This year I will post about non-white individuals, women, LGBT+ representation, those with disabilities, and about intersectionality. Basically, I will look at diversity in general.