Why Representation Matters
Have you read, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou? Therein is a little black girl that believes if she had blonde hair and blue eyes, everything would be different and okay.
I didn’t understand race for a long time – I grew up with friends of all colors and nationalities, but it wasn’t until my family relocated to the deep south that I came to understand that being black came with its own stigma.
I’ll never forget the day – I was riding with my grandmother as we headed to Pulaski, Tennessee, and as we rounded the courthouse, I watched men in sheets chant epithets and spew hate. I asked my grandmother about it, and she told me to ignore those fools. But what is known cannot be unknown or forgotten.
Only after this fierce and blatant experience was I forced to face that European beauty standards would dictate my own beauty. My lips and nose were considered too wide; my derriere to round; my laughter too robust; my hair too curly and kinky. I was supposed to cower in the background, and be okay with it, but I wasn’t. Instead, I sought to create my own path, and strengthened by the tenets of my faith, and family, and embraced by a high school where we were all eclectic, different and thriving on this difference, I pursued excellence. I tried out for plays; studied hard, acted, travelled, and never let anyone put me in a corner because of what they expected me to be like.
Luckily in the 80s, I grew up with television characters that reflected my world, such as The Cosby Show and A Different World, followed in the 90s by Family Matters. I saw families that reflected my own – these stories didn’t revolve around drugs, prostitution or any negative stereotype, but about families and the problems that they had to overcome.
Every kid is teased. Every kid has to make their way into adulthood, and having representation that goes beyond that of horrible tropes, as depicted in movies and by the media, the social prejudices can then be eradicated. If books and media didn’t provide a different take, I could have grown up thinking that the best I could become would have been a maid, a hooker, a strung out side chick, or even a drug dealer. The positive role models made it possible for me to reach higher, and to strive to become more. That’s why representation is important.
Diversity in pop culture and media are important. The media and entertainment industry play an important role in race relations, as many people only know of certain ethnicities based on the image as produced through Hollywood’s lenses. Stereotypes that are visually reinforced, and without basis. We’ve not yet moved to a society where all are embraced, but maybe this can be the beginning of it. Maybe through diverse fiction, and the telling of tales that move the masses, others can embrace stories that star cast members of differing ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations.
Just as a FYI, diverse fiction doesn’t mean that everything is about race relations or some huge historical struggle. A romance doesn’t have to be about race any more than a children’s cartoon. Were the Huxtables any less relatable because they were a black family?
Instead, this and representations of diverse mediums reflect the diverse community we are, as well as helps to build bridges – removing the sense of otherness, and instead recognizing that the stories we tell are those of the heart – the same boy meets girl love stories, travel adventures, war stories, heck, even horror. By building those bridges we help to eradicate the growing chasm of hate which we find ourselves wallowing in. So, instead of just deferring to a homogeneous or default representation in fiction, I’m happy to be part of a forthcoming boxed set that reflects the world in which I live.
My America is composed of several races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and genders. And there is room in fiction for all of us.
Let’s embrace diverse fiction because we are living in a grand diverse world!
Today, help support diversity and representation, and grab your copy of this great set of full length stories!
Tina Glasneck is a writer, blogger, book lover and caffeine addict. Her interests are diverse, as is her writing. Combining her passions, she enjoys creating stories that span across the genres, including crime fiction, mystery, and thrillers, and PNR and fantasy romance.
Each genre requires something different: spine-tingling, angst causing thrillers, and villains worth their word counts. Inspired by the dark masters of Alfred Hitchcock, and Edgar Allan Poe, darkness must have depth.
When it comes to writing fantasy, she believes in having feminine, fantasy and fierce characters, combining alternate history, with Norse gods, and the fantastical!
When she is not composing her next tale, she’s surely dabbling in paint, finding a new brand of coffee, or people-watching at her local coffee shop.
Find her online: Twitter | Website
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