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Can We Talk About Racial Representation in the Media?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

Current trends of whitewashing and race-bending are giving us a distorted view of what is the ‘norm’. Children are growing up and failing to see themselves fairly represented in the media – that’s if they are even represented at all. 

Conversations about race are gradually opening up. Blogs such as ‘The “I’m Tired” Project’ (founded by Paula Akpan and Harriet Evans) are highlighting the racist micro aggressions and stereotypes being facilitated and engineered by our mainstream media. 

Below is a list, which is by no means conclusive, but a sort of exposé of problems that are being overlooked in our society. There is clearly an internalised racism present in our society and in 2015 why is this still, so often, being ignored?


The flat mule, pleats, ruffles and high-collars. The spring/summer 2016 fashion week this year truly encompassed a range of styles and challenged modern trends as we were treated to Victorian-Era influences in a number of the catwalks.

However this foray into the past was accompanied by an outdated attitude. A report into diversity at these catwalk shows revealed that 79.4% of runway models were white. 

Yes, that’s right, for every 4 white models there was only one who was not. It is ludicrous that in 2015 ethnic minorities are still being marginalized in an industry that promises to push boundaries and challenge outmoded attitudes.

Whilst we were granted some sort of diversity through Ashley Graham’s celebration of ‘plus-sized’ models, it seems that no one is questioning the lack of ethnic diversity in the fashion world. Why are white models ‘the norm’ and why is more not being done to make the fashion world more inclusive?


The ridiculous lack of representation of marginalized races is something that also extends to modern cinema.

Dylan Marron is an individual who is exposing this injustice. His Tumblr edits film clips to remove all lines spoken by Caucasians. The drastic reduction in running times of many well-known films should shock many of you. ‘Friends with Benefits’ is reduced to a mere 55 seconds, whilst ‘Noah’ is a measly 11 seconds.

This inequality extends even further, to ridiculous proportions. Even when ethnic minorities are granted a spoken role in a script, these parts are often given to white actors. Recent examples are Jim Sturgess in Cloud Atlas and Emma Stone in Aloha who both portrayed Asian-Americans (the former even went so far as to adopt creepy prosthetics and ‘yellowface’). 

Acts such as these are silencing the voices of ethnic minorities in society and suggesting they are ‘unworthy’ of representing themselves. Audiences are being presented with a white ideal of marginalized cultures and this exclusion is fundamentally damaging to those who do not fit the white demographic that is being catered for. Individuals need to see their race represented on screen, in order to prevent a society where we continuously define any race that is not white as less important.

(Infographic credit: Lee and Low Books)


It is not just the issue of actors on screen that needs addressing. What about those behind the camera? We are living in a society where there are 16 non-black directors to every 1 black director. This can’t be brushed off as minorities having a lack of interest in the film industry. It is simply an example of the absence of diverse opportunities available.

Lest we forget Matt Damon’s recent faux pas when he talked over acclaimed black director Effie Brown in order to explain diversity to her. 

Damon even stated:

“When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show.”

I don’t even need to explain why this is statement is so offensive, that should be obvious. Power and artistic license needs to be more readily available to ethnic minorities both behind and in front of the camera. Our viewing habits shouldn’t be trained to expect white actors/actresses in the majority of spoken roles, with minorities being consistently pushed to the wayside.

(Screenshots via HBO)

As I said at the start of the article this is not a conclusive list. Sadly there is a seemingly endless array of problems with race representation in the media. Industries need to represent exactly how diverse our society truly is. The consistent whitewashing of models and actors is further marginalizing individuals and encouraging a form of white supremacy.

The conversation about race has begun, and we need to make sure that this voice is one that is not silenced. 

(Article photo credit: Ming Au)

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