BIPOC, we don’t have to be in competition

It’s OK to applaud one group while wanting more exposure for your own group

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Photo credit: Megan Thomas/Unsplash

While I’m always on the lookout for good independent films that are created by black, indigenous and (other) people of color, there will be ones that will slip through the cracks. “Canvas,” an animated short film, is one of those moments. I smiled through the grandfather’s story and how beautifully told it was. It also made me think of memories of my own grandparents.

While I appreciated @8wariorlittle for bringing it to Twitter users’ attention, I couldn’t help but notice a tweet underneath, “I’m still waiting on Native shows and animation. The last fucking thing we had was Pocahontas in the fucking 90’s since then we’ve had ZERO representation. And we stillonly got 1 shared day out of the year while everyone else gots a fucking month.”

What. The. Fawk?

There’s this habit that I find within BIPOC groups that needs to stop — pronto — and I’m not just talking about Gina Rodriguez’s unnecessary “what about me” stunt with Yara Shahidi or Eva Longoria’s rambling regarding black leaders and the 2020 Election. Too many of us have a habit of seeing one group get some shine in business, technology, education and entertainment industries and immediately ruining it with a, “But what about me?” Contrary to (uncomfortably) popular belief, it is indeed possible to applaud someone for progress within their group while using your same platform to encourage more diversity. It does not have to be one or the other.

Another gripe I have with this tweet is that it was just flat-out untrue. “Pocahontas” released in 1995. Meanwhile I watched both 2014–2015 seasons of “The Red Road” starring Jason Momoa at least three times. Even the absolute laziest search of Native films and animation could introduce web users to these streaming projects to watch in 2020:

  • Basketball or Nothing
  • Merata: How Mum Decolonized the Screen
  • Indian Horse
  • N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear
  • See

It also doesn’t take into account Native anime like these shows:

  • Pachamama (Netflix)
  • Victor and Valentino (The Cartoon Network)
  • Molly of Denali (PBS)

And considering I celebrated National Native American Heritage Month at a couple jobs (along with a Black History Month party), you’d have to be comfortably sleeping under a rock to not know about this November homage since 1990. That’s not even touching on the fact that if it wasn’t for Carter G. Woodson’s work in the 1970s, Black History Month would probably still just be Negro History Week.

But my bigger issue with this tweet is the saltiness of it all, and the hunch that if this same tweet was about a non-black anime short, this wouldn’t have been sent. While people of color and black folks continue to try to expand diversity within mainstream society, these inner BIPOC groups fighting among each other is not helping matters. We need to do a far better job of supporting each others’ projects without being smug and being unnecessarily competitive.

While too many of us are doing a world of service bickering among each other — and helping Mainstream America make sure there is only one token character in the bunch — I would much rather be bickering about having more shows like “The Patriot Act” and “Never Have I Ever” (can the brown guy get the girl in one of Mindy Kaling’s shows please?), loving and laughing at shows like “One Day at a Time” and watching the syndicated version of “The George Lopez Show” a ridiculous amount of times.

I like dutifully following what most of the cast of ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” (the trio of sons, the father and grandmother only — not the actress who complained about renewal) after it ended — with “Always Be My Maybe” being at the top of my list of romantic comedies. I’ll never get tired of seeing the slew of British Black actors (read: Idris Elba in anything) in American films.

I’m even ecstatic to see adult anime shows like “Big Mouth” somehow manage to make the story of “code switching” educational, entertaining and hilarious all at the same time, and I respect Jenny Slate’s decision to step down and make room for a black actress to do voiceover for Missy. (On a similar but separate note, Lena Waithe, also on “Big Mouth,” is a champ for creating a quality storytelling space for black LGBTQ+ people on shows like “The Chi,” “Boomerang” and “Twenties,” too.)

Quite frankly, I’m just happy to see BIPOC in more TV writing, producing and directing since the ’90s flood of content disappeared. I love to see us in charge of telling our own stories. I don’t want to compete when I’d rather support. And if we want to see more of each other on film, television and web series, maybe we should all try wiping those green eyes away and showing off our beautiful browns!

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I Do See Color

“Seeing” color is no more a problem than “seeing” height.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

I Do See Color

We are not ashamed of our melanin, and we know you “see” it. Just don’t discriminate and disrespect us because of it.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

I Do See Color

We are not ashamed of our melanin, and we know you “see” it. Just don’t discriminate and disrespect us because of it.

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