Ok my people. When we’re protesting the whitewashing of Asian stories, we really REALLY need to stop saying ‘This would never happen to Black/African characters!’
Like seriously. I’ve seen this argument being used by otherwise respectable and eloquent activists, both in the case of ‘Avatar: the Last Airbender’ and the recent controversy over La Jolla’ playhouse’s ‘The Nightingale’. And each time it makes me cringe.
Hell, even George Takei, whom I have mad respect for, said that African-Americans are established in Hollywood in a way that Asian-Americans are not, and that the white Hollywood would never whitewash the former group anymore etc.
This is not how white supremacy works. First off, if white people are so reluctant to whitewash Black folks, why the fuck are we still getting lily white white women playing Cleopatra? Why the fuck is nearly every mainstream depiction of ancient Egypt whiter than white bread?
Here’s the thing. Whiteness works insidiously. Where it can, it absorbs and subsumes. Where it cannot, it destroys and erases.
So while white folks are busy fetishizing ‘Asian’ culture and inserting themselves into our histories/ cultures/ mythologies because omg its so pretty and exotic, guess what they’re doing to Black/African histories and mythologies? Inserting themselves where they can (hello ‘The Help’, ‘Blood Diamond’) and erasing/ destroying when they can’t. This is why it took George Lucas decades to get ‘Red Tails’ off the ground. This is why no one wanted to fund the Malcom X movie, or Danny Glover’s biopic on Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian revolution.
Responding to yellowface/ Asian whitewashing with ‘this wouldn’t happen to Black people!’ is flat out ignorant, unhelpful and divisive.
There are plenty of good reasons to oppose the whitewashing of Asian stories. Reasons that can allow us to cultivate solidarity with Black/African communities whose stories are also struggling for visibility.
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