Let’s buy lots of books from authors of colour, and that include characters of colour, which is not a bad idea, but this is fraught with danger. There is an issue with the narratives within the books; There are various resources and link on this website which critique literature and other media.
Today, I want to talk about what we do with books which cause systemic damage. I have never advocated censorship; Problematic texts are a great place to teach about power and it’s dynamics. Holes exist in sections of the canon, the teaching of the causes of that omission is powerful.I want to talk about what we do with books which cause systemic damage. I have never advocated censorship; Problematic texts are a great place to teach about power and its dynamics. Holes exist in sections of the canon, the teaching of… Click To Tweet
Power flows in one direction: from men to women, from white to the global majority, etc. If we consume enough literature which reinforces these familiar tropes, eventually this leads us to toxic associations. If we are consistently shown that black people cannot achieve anything without the help of a white character (white saviour trope), then this becomes part of our expectations and may form part of our decisions in everyday life.
Like I said earlier, I have never advocated censorship.
However, after various conversations, I have come to the point where I have realised that no matter how many times we teach about power and the relative impact of society. In all the media, we consume the narrative still exists opposed.
Here is the question: where are the counter-narratives?
Where is the of glut black saviour characters? Where are the stories where white people rarely speak? Where male character don’t talk to each about subjects that don’t involve women? Where are the women of colour who are near invisible in this world? Where the disabled characters who are not there as a token but as an integral part of the plot.Where is the glut of black saviour characters? Where are the stories where white people rarely speak? Where male character don't talk to each about subjects that don't involve women? Where are the women of colour who are near invisible… Click To Tweet
Yes, this is damaging to people who do to fit the narratives in the stories. In all of our lives, we matter. We are the protagonist, support and sometimes even the villain in our own stories. Not seeing in this represented is detrimental to you self worth (Darren Chetty’s work is worth a look).
It also instils a habitus of thought around what stories should look like, how characters should act and look. Writers then follow the same pattern, and the whole system self propagates. What is the answer?
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman expertly flips the narrative and place black people at the core of colonial rule. It expertly shows how the imperial rule works in reverse. I didn’t notice this until the recent BBC series, the black characters are shown as aggressive overlords. I can’t think of another film where white European systemic oppression is showcased in this way. Maybe, I am just losing my mind after a tough week, but you know.
Are there any counter-narratives to the tropes that exist? If there aren’t, should we not try to protect our children from those?
So, what do to do?
Let’s us all think about that.