There are so many reasons why I have stopped expecting to receive “equal” representation from Hollywood and why I believe many other black women should do the same.
The current representation of black people in society is not simply lacking—its effects are devastating. Not only do black people make up a staggering 12.5 percent of lead film roles compared to whites who dominate at 78.1%, but the type of representation we receive in the media often does more harm than good. In fact, according to an article in The Economist, blacks are well overrepresented in media portrayals of poverty.
Proof of the effects of racism on the psyche of young black children can also be found in the popular Doll Test, in which black children were presented with two dolls that differed only in skin and hair colour. When asked to pick the doll that they preferred, the vast majority of children chose the white doll over the black doll. Young black girls growing up in our society will (if they haven’t already) internalize racism and are more likely experience feelings of self-hatred, inadequacy, as well as mental illnesses like depression or even eating disorders. Growing up in a society that constantly tells you—whether directly or indirectly—that you are not beautiful, attractive, desirable, or even valuable as a human being, is akin to abuse.
Thus, we need to make sure black women are represented more in the media. However, we must not settle for mediocre representation or “diversity” done out of tokenism. The future generation of young black girls deserve to be elevated in the same way that every other race of women receives. We deserve a media created for us entirely, even if it has to be done by us.