On -isms: So Simple & Yet...

By | Thursday, October 20, 2016 Leave a Comment
I had planned on writing a book review here today. Good story, clever art, deals with some otherness that I thought could tie into the "On -isms" theme that I run on Thursdays. But I decided not to because there's no real diversity in it. And not just, "Oh, look, the protagonist and his sidekick are white guys" but "wait, there are literally no people of color anywhere in this book!" I actually went back to double-check and, despite several large crowd scenes throughout the story, I could not find a single character that wasn't portrayed as white.

It was a decent book, well-crafted story and good art. Good characterization. But there is a complete absence of Blacks, Asians, Latinos... There are some characters that are physically disabled, but it's a sci-fi story so they all have prosthetic limbs that act as good as (and, in some cases, better than) natural-born ones.

The artist is a white guy and, while I don't like it, I sadly kind of expect him to depict the main characters as white guys. That's unfortunately still kind of the default for our society. But to go through and create a 100+ page story with, as I said, several crowd scenes, and not depict a single POC seems beyond a little oblivious. How hard would it have been to color a few of those tiny people in the back of the crowd with a darker color? I often marvel at the idea, too, that an artist wouldn't want to include a greater variety of people -- wouldn't an entire crowd of white people get monotonous to draw? Wouldn't peppering in a few people with slightly different racial features inherently making the tedium of drawing a large group more interesting?

I suppose, coming from the other side, there's certainly the potential concern of depicting someone negatively (inadvertently or not) and being fearful of the backlash that might arise from that. I know I spoke to a comic artist once who expressed some hesitation when the writer he was working with (who was white) included a Black protagonist; the artist was nervous about the character being seen as caricature or a bad stereotype. But to be so fearful that you don't even include anyone in a crowd scene? That strikes me as unlikely.

Plus, didn't anyone in the publishing chain say something? The editor didn't read through this and say, "Um, how about you at least color a few of these background folks? Maybe add in a Black hairstyle here or there?" No one in the whole process thought maybe a little more representation might be warranted?

Look, according to the 2010 census, the United States consists of roughly 72% white, 13% Black, 5% Asian, 1% Native American, and the rest a mix of other or multiple races. Additionally, about 16% of the above population identify as Latino. That means that in a crowd of 100 people, you should probably see 13 Black people. In a crowd of 50, about a half dozen should be Black. In a crowd of 25, three. In a crowd of 12, one or two.

Look, I can understand if you don't want to count off specific percentages ("Well, let's see... this crowd will have 63 people in it, and 13% of that is...") -- I don't know that artists need to be that exacting. But no representation AT ALL?!? Come on now! It's 2016 -- you should know better!
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