There has been a lot of talk about representation lately and whether it matters, or whatever. I’m here to tell you, Yes. REPRESENTATION DOES MATTER! With that said, I want to share a story.
When I was in the fourth grade, I received an outfit from a relative back in Guinea that I absolutely loved. I decided to wear it to school the following week, and I remember my parents asking me if I was sure that I wanted to wear it. Very confused by their hesitations, I said yes. I will never forget some of the strange stares that I received from my fellow school mates. I never wore African garments in public again for years. In fact, I tried to distance myself from my African heritage as much as I could.
Who would have thought that this early experience from my childhood would shape my relationship with my culture and make me want to distance myself from it for such a long time? I don’t blame my classmate for giving me those strange stares that day. They probably had never seen someone in African clothing before. This brings me back to representation in the media. The lack of representation of people of color and their different cultures in the media does affect how POC view themselves as individuals, and it affects how others view them as part of the world. The media reflects an image of society that is consumed globally. As a POC, when you don’t see people who look like you represented adequately in the media, you may feel the need to be more like what you see on-screen instead of being yourself or embracing where you’re from. This can sometimes lead to self-esteem issues, like the one I experienced in the fourth grade and growing up as a teenager.
So it’s such a good feeling to be in a time where strides are being made to bring more diversity to our screens. With the mainstream success of films and shows like Black Panther, The Big Sick , Moonlight, Jane the Virgin and Fresh Off the Boat changing how people see the world, young POC, girls and LGBTQ people will grow up being able to see themselves represented in everyday life without constantly being subjected to stereotypes. It also allows people who live in communities that are not so diverse to be exposed to communities that differs from their own. Younger me definitely wishes the push in diversity that is going on now was around then, but better now than never!