By Aleisha Flores, FINDink Contributor
Growing up, my world was mostly white. The movies and television shows I watched, the people who presented the news, the athletes who were the champions in their fields, the models walking down the runways, and gracing the covers of magazines at the supermarket. It was just normal in America.
Sure, there were (and are) great media and arts icons of color I could look up to as a child – Naomi Campbell, Lucy Liu, maybe even people like Jackie Chan – but not seeing someone like myself, a young Filipino-American girl, staring back at me from my TV screen was a little disheartening. Yeah, there were famous Asian people, but even then, most of the time they weren’t Filipino. As I got older, it left the impression on me that careers like acting, or singing, playing sports or even being a news anchor weren’t for people like me.
As we’ve seen become more prevalent, people are starting to speak out more on the lack of representation and inclusivity for people of color (along with other marginalized groups) in mainstream media, the arts, sports, and other industries. The acknowledgement that the United States of America is a country whose diversity is one of its most distinguishing traits. Those who expressed their discontent with white people playing roles meant for people of color – for example, Carey Mulligan playing a role originally written to be a Latina woman in Drive, Scarlett Johansson’s casting in the live-action adaptation of the anime Ghost in the Shell, Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One (a Tibetan man in the comics) in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, to name a few – were frequently shut down and accused of “turning everything into a race issue” or ignored entirely as haters.
But recently that cycle of being silenced has been shaken up – actor Ed Skrein, who happens to be white, announced via his official Twitter account that he would be stepping down from his role in the Hellboy reboot to make room for role of Major Ben Daimio to be appropriately and accurately cast as a Japanese American man. “It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts,” he wrote.
At first glance, it seems like Skrein is a cultural hero. This is a rare occasion in that this never happens, at least not this publicly. It’s as if our concerns are finally being listened to. And perhaps they are. Skrein was given praise and kudos from people both white and non-white for his decision to drop out of the film.
It’s kind of sad that after years of whitewashing in media, it took until 2017 for someone to turn down a role not meant for them, risking their career in the process. But before we continue to applaud people like Skrein for their bravery and boldness, let’s remember that we shouldn’t be putting people on a pedestal for doing the good and decent things that they should have been done in the first place.
Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.