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  • Jayden Pierce

Racist Media


Six Dr. Seuss will no longer be published because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the business that preserves the author’s legacy said. (Courtesy Penguin Random House)


I came across three different posts about racist caricatures from Steven Universe, The Proud Family: Louder And Prouder, and even Dr.Seuss within a day. By chance, I found an article written by Sharonda Harris-Marshall titled: It’s Okay To Like Problematic Media. This article prompted me to write about the creators that I loved growing up and their racist and or colorist creations.

I read and watched work made by and inspired by Dr.Seuss. Today I’ve seen a racist drawing from Seuss that shows Black people for sale as wood for fuel trending. Many caricatures like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Mrs.Butterworth have similarly trended. Seuss’s work is similar to the racist mascots who were implemented into these brands long ago. And are now trending and facing reprimand after decades. Due to this Seuss’s latest work will not be published.





What interests me about these caricatures being brought to light is the timing of it. These mascots and Seuss’s drawings have been around for decades. During the rise in awareness of black people killed. Pitty changes with changing racist caricatures seem like a distraction.

I scrolled on to The Proud Family reboot, The Proud Family: Louder And Prouder. As a fan of the original. I was excited to see the new direction and design of the show. My favorite characters had new sleek designs. Except for the one dark skin character in the group. The creators gave “Dijonah” the caricature of an argumentative, fat, dark skin, Black woman. Making her the only dark skin girl in a lighter-skinned lineup to not fit her clothes.

Dijonah is not the only characterization of colorism in The Proud Family, the shows large and aggressive bullies with blue skin. The show has had a long history of colorist stereotypes with their darker characters.


Dijonah © Disney Channel


The last show I saw talked about took me by surprise. I hadn’t put much thought into the caricatures in Steven Universe.A popular animated show about an all-woman group of crystal gems from outer space fighting to protect the earth. The group deals with love, family, and healthy interpersonal relationships.


The main characters of importance here are “Garnet” (the leader), “Amethyst”, and “Pearl”. These characters are based on real-life crystals and are also racially coded. Pearl being white coded, Garnet being black coded, and Amethyst being Latinx coded.


Garnets’ role for her teammates is to be the strong, unwavering Black woman who is less fragile than her counterparts. She is used to making her two non-black teammates stronger in an episode where Pearl and Amethyst take advantage of the strength they get from Garnet.

The show has a long history of dealing with prevalent conversations in a unique way. Yet they fall short trying to bring black representation into fantasy. A large part of the show is the fusion between different gems. The gems become large beautiful women when they fuse. And I’m pretty sure you saw this coming, but when the characters fuse with the white coded character Pearl, the fusions are graceful and beautiful. Yet when a black coded character Garnet and a Latinx coded character Amethyst fuse, they become a loud aggressive monster by the name of Sugilite.

This fusion plays into the depiction of black women as angry and undesirable. While also depicting Latina women as having aggressive personalities.


Sugilite © Cartoon Network


The racist depictions in media are not new, but they ruin the media and black portrayal. The portrayal of black people in this negative light is ingrained. And without Black creators or Black women who are creators, the representation will continue to lack.



Resources


Harris-Marshall, Sharonda. “It’s Ok To Like Problematic Media.” Medium, Medium, 26 Dec. 2018, sharondaharris.medium.com/its-ok-to-like-problematic-media-d4e2c03aa26c.


Kingston, Jamie. “‘Bismuth’ and Steven Universe’s Racial Coding Problem.” WWAC, WWAC, 29 Aug. 2016, womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2016/08/steven-universe-100-bismuth-undermined-by-racial-coding/.


Service, CNN.com Wire. “6 Dr. Seuss Books Won’t Be Published Anymore Because They Portray People in ‘Hurtful and Wrong’ Ways.” The Mercury News, The Mercury News, 2 Mar. 2021, www.mercurynews.com/2021/03/02/6-dr-seuss-books-wont-be-published-anymore-because-they-portray-people-in-hurtful-and-wrong-ways/.


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