This post is part of a year-long series. If my work is helpful for you, consider a contribution through Venmo to support this crucial work of unlearning racial bias.
Last week, I asked some tough questions of you and of myself, about the way media portrayals of LGBTQ individuals have colored our perception of how we expect them to exist in the world. I asked what one-dimensional depictions of LGBTQ people we have belived to be true. I asked when we’ve turned a blind eye to struggles you’ve assumed are a logical consequence of “lifestyle choice” instead of calling out injustice when we see it, and understanding that such injustices are undivorceable from lopsided portrayals of LGBTQ people that are amplified by the media. For me, it’s taken listening to podcasts, reading articles, and having beloved friends and family members in my life to truly wake me up to the depth of injustice people experience based on their sexual preference or because they don’t identify inextricably with the genitals they were born with. And it’s taken time and relationship to come to a place of listening instead of talking when it comes to such injustice.
I have much to learn.
This week, I want to turn our attention to a memorable scene from A Different World. In season 6, episode 3, Lena and Dorian are low-key courting each other amid a backdrop of Greek step performances. Charmaine and Gina come across Lena’s book of poetry while Lena is at work, and without her knowledge plan a step routine using her poetry. In keeping with Lena’s super-woke, hella deep character and the lovely habit A Different World had of teaching its audience about the meaning behind various black traditions, the resulting step routine is catchy, meaningful, and uplifting:
Reconnect the Community
cannot be waged
Without African-American unity
No more tears
to be shed
No more marches to be led
No more pity
To be wrought
Naught more mercy to be sought
Unity in the community
It’s time to be a reality
The last time I recommended an episode of A Different World, it was because of Kim Reese’s dark-skinned character being affirmed as beautiful after having been made to feel like a racist caricature as a child who was dressed like a princess, not Aunt Jemima. This time, I recommend this particular episode of A Different World because of its light and airy feel, its warm message of unification, and its magical way of teaching history alongside an apt reflection of 90’s black American culture. This week’s recommended resource is Interior Desecration.
As you watch these engaging characters’ stories unfold, I hope you’ll consider these few questions:
- What has it meant to you to see characters that look like you on TV? What memories do you have of such TV shows that are positively linked with your own childhood?
- How much of the TV and movie content you took in growing up centered around people who didn’t look like you? How did such shows cause you to grow, change, or be challenged? Might your growth have traveled a different trajectory if you’d taken in more diverse media at a young age?
- When is the first time you consciously remember meeting someone from a different racial background than you and registering the difference? What impact did it have on you?
Meet me back here again next week, folks, and we will keep working to unlock the peace that resides deep within all of us, one piece at a time.