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White Privilege Essay

1998 words - 8 pages

White privilege is an advantage in society that is unmerited. Though it is practiced in every day life (whether it’s subtle or not), the majority views it as “absurd” and “non-existent”. Whiteness and white privilege are taboos that create feelings of guilt, hostility and anger whenever discussed by people of colour (hooks, 339), but it must be addressed and understood in order to be eradicated. Racism shapes the lives of white people, not only the lives of people of colour (Frankenberg, 1). When white privilege is ignored, white people are able to maintain power and dominance in our “post-racial” society. (Mcintosh, 33). In this essay, I will argue that widespread media representation and ...view middle of the document...

” White people are able to ignore issues like this because of “the power they have historically asserted” (hooks, 340). When people of colour are represented, the media often emphasizes negative views by contributing to our erasure and stereotypes. Lets take a look at the classic and widely popular show “Friends”. The show was set in New York City, where only about 47% of the population is white (Infoplease, 2010), yet white actors played the six main characters and nearly all of the secondary and minor characters. Similarly, are shows like Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, and more recently, Girls, written by Lena Dunham, the “face of feminism”. Each of these TV shows take place in the racially diverse city of New York and yet all of them have contributed or are contributing to the erasure of racial minorities. When people of colour are represented, we are often the sidekick, the best friend, the villain or maybe the very temporary love interest (Scherker, 2015).

There is also the phenomenon of “whitewashing” in mainstream media, which refers to changing characters that are traditionally of colour, to white characters in order to attract a larger audience (Scherker, 2015). The general public is trained to not want to identify or relate with characters of colour, leaving racialized people with no one to look up to. As a child, Avatar: The Last Airbender was my favourite TV show (the main characters were East Asian, South Asian and Indigenous peoples), and I was absolutely thrilled to find out they were making it into a movie with real people. When the movie was released I saw that yet again white people were set to play protagonists (people of colour in the original cartoon), and an actor of Indian descent, Dev Patel, was cast to play the villain. At the time I thought nothing of it, and as I reflect on it now, I am disappointed, though not surprised. I have seen this happen numerous times, for example in Prince of Persia: The Sand of Times, where characters who are Middle Eastern are played by white actors like Jake Gyllenhaal. White people have the privilege of seeing themselves represented virtually everywhere; they do not have to see us and live life as though we are invisible (hooks, 340). Even in movies where white characters play the antagonist, like in The Last Samurai, it is still a white protagonist (Tom Cruise) that ultimately saves the day.

Whether we like it or not, the only times we are represented on TV shows and films are to project stereotypes which profoundly reflect real world biases (hooks, 341). This is why representation is so important. White people have the privilege of being portrayed in many diverse roles on almost every TV show and they are prevented from being confined to any distinct definition or stereotype. On the other hand non-white people have only one narrative that is so heavily enforced, it is treated as a reality. This reflects society’s view that stories of racialized bodies are...

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