I notice that my television screen is full of white people. I notice that in TV shows, there is only one black person, playing the token black role. I notice that Schitt’s Creek, acclaimed for being diverse and forward-thinking in regards to sexuality, fails to do anything for colored people. There is one black person on the entire show, and she plays the token role. In the third episode of the first season of New Girl, the token black character was changed out for another token black character. The rest of the cast remained white people. In Netflix’s show Love, the token black character even comments that he is going for the “token black role,” almost breaking the fourth wall. Of the million shows created for young children, the characters are primarily white. They are cartoons; it would be so easy to give the characters color, any color. But the creators refuse. I look at my screen and see only a bunch of white people, and anyone of color is simply playing into a stereotypical role. I notice that while some are trying, it’s not enough. TV racism is widespread.
I notice that in the affluent neighborhoods it takes less than one hand to count the number of black families living there. I notice that diversity is something employers claim to practice but is not something that is visually apparent. Where are the black people? Where, for that matter, is anyone with any pigment to their skin, or any culture in their background? How harrowing it would be to go to work and be the only one, then come home and still be the only one.
I notice my father, who is 100% Punjabi and has brown skin. I notice my skin is white because of my mother’s ancestry; you notice it, too. We both notice that I have escaped many racial slurs and moments of discrimination because the white skin gene dominates in me.
I notice the black man walking toward me, averting his eyes. I get the impression that he is shocked when I say hello to him. I notice that while the media tries to make out that black people are to be feared, it is actually the white person’s power that is scarier.
I notice when an institution actually achieves diversity. I am grateful to send my son to a school that has black teachers: in this small way, I can teach my son that it’s the person who matters, not their skin. He can be with people of different colors and cultures each day. He can grow up knowing diversity, instead of having to learn about it.
I notice the beauty and the depth of colored skin. I notice how pasty, red, and imperfect white skin is, and I truly wonder how white skin came to be considered “better.”
I think people with power –a politician, CEO, movie/television director, small business owner, or anyone with communication ability – do not understand that people can tell when an institution is trying to be diverse, and when it actually is diverse. “Trying” means you’re failing. I notice that right now, America is failing.