TV’s Luther “doesn’t feel authentic”.
Says Miranda Wayland, the BBC creative diversity chief, points out that he has no black friends and doesn’t eat Caribbean food.
She also praised Elba for playing a “really strong, black character lead”.
I have to say I agree with her.
The Problem with Diveristy
The problem with diversification is that it seeks solely to show fair representation in our curriculum.
What is that representation worth?
The representation issue is that it doesn’t take into account what whiteness is. Before I am dragged for judging people for their melanin deficit, let me define whiteness. Whiteness is a psychosis of power; it is the need to acquiesce, coalesce and embody success which in our world is measure on this metric.
For the academically minded: Whiteness is a sociological construct that can be defined as a technology of affect which is surreptitiously taught implicitly (Leonardo 2013, Lentin 2016). Whiteness is a hegemonic ideology based on the socially constructed oppression at individual and systemic levels (Ahmed 2004).
The closer a person is to power and whiteness, the more accepted they are. Power likely flows from this source. As a result—the gatekeeper to success a persons proximity to whiteness. People of colour who espouse those values are more likely to be represented/successful, i.e. middle class, no accent, credentialed, light-skinned, Christian, etc.
The whole image of success, and therefore success itself, is perpetuated and protected by you get what you see and see what you get (Bourdieu refers to this as the habitus, click here for more).
White Supremacy in Melanated Bottles
White supremacy is contained and upheld by people of all skin tones. With recognising that we must seek to rebuild the system as fairer, our house of cards needs to be rebuilt. Simply switching white faces for melanated ones without really questioning why we reject the ‘other’ does not make the world fairer; it merely shuffles the deck.
In schools, the question to ask ‘why does success always align itself with whiteness. Why is that PoC, on the whole, are disadvantaged? Why are pupils of colour always more likely to under-assessed by their teacher? Receive harsher punitive sanctions? etc.
Yet when we look at the students who are perceived as successful, they are almost always aligned to whiteness; only white males are afforded the mantle of success without reservations of achievement the wrong way (east Asians working too hard, etc.) (Archer 2004).
Only some PoC are afforded some of the privileges of the system. Ask yourself – what do those folx have? What makes them better? If we remove the privilege and whiteness metrics, we quickly realise that racism is not about melanin but solely on this image.
Representation matters. This is a step in the right direction, a step.
Yes, the secret garden and to kill a mockingbird may include people of colour, but where are the vast number of people of colour in the hierachy. Both narratives are guilty of the same tropes of people of colour being subservient, having the need of white folx.
A novel way of looking at this issue is through a reverse lens, white folx are bestowed with the luxury of just being. An average white person in stories can live their lives and do amazing things. To be a person of colour and do the same, you have to be either magical or act as close to whiteness. Luther can not have an accent, eat different foods, wear traditional clothes, celebrate his faith openly. Well, he can, but in the real world, he would be disadvantaged as a result.
Luther was an opportunity where art could have disrupted reality.
Blackness is as worthy as whiteness; it’s time we demand this in our classrooms and our screens.