“Black-washing” is not a real thing

I cannot believe we have to argue with white people about this, but here we go. This is I guess, a rant post. If you take offense, oh well. If it doesn’t apply, then let it fly.

Here we go CSI

Recently there’s been an influx of Black artists drawing their favorite characters in a darker skin tones, and yes, white people got upset. And thus, the argument of white-washing versus “black-washing” arose. Now what is white-washing? Simply put in reference to a movie or animation, it’s when a character’s features or other characteristics are altered to cater to a more….white audience. An example of this, is how the director of The New Mutants, failed to cast an Afro- Brazilian (or even an African American) for the role of Sunspot.

And it’s no shade to the actor who played Sunspot, but would have loved to see a brown person play the role.

His response was that he didn’t care about the light skin versus dark skin debate, and wanted to cast someone who looked the part of a son of a rich dad. Sunspot is Afro-Brazilian. He has an Afro-Brazilian dad and white mother. The statement was very tone deaf and quite frankly racist/colorist. And not to mention classist as well. Because it implied that Black people cant be wealthy in the coded statement he made. Colorism is QUITE rampant in Brazil, among Afro Brazilians. Am I surprised a white man said he didn’t care about it? No, because it’s hard to care about a social issue, that doesn’t directly impact your life. All in all, the erasure of Sunspot’s original race was highly disappointing, and the director’s response to the backlash only caused me to bootleg that shit. And it wasn’t even that great of a movie, if we being real.

Underrepresentation in the Anime Community

Obviously anime is full of Japanese characters, but you’d have to be extremely dense, to fail to notice the eurocentric features of characters, in some anime. And that’s cool, every creator has a right to include who they want in their stories. And most studios will cater to whatever viewer audience they want. But it’s no secret that Black and brown people are majorly underrepresented in anime. And maybe it’s because we’re not the target viewer audience (spoiler alert: we’re not) I have seen very few Black anime characters, as have many other Black anime watchers.

Many Black artists like to draw popular characters with dark skin. Why? One, Because again, we rarely see Black anime characters. Two it’s fanart, it’s the artist’s interpretation. Unlike others, we actually know the characters are Asian and not white. I don’t think artists are trying to be disrespectful when they change the skin tone. And again it’s fanart? It’s not hurting anyone.

What I don’t understand the most, is white people who got upset over seeing this trend. You’re mad someone made fanart of a Japanese character? I think sometimes they get confused, when they point out a character isn’t Black. You’re right! These original characters aren’t Black, but they aren’t white either 😉 The complete erasure of Afro-Asians is another can of worms that I won’t even get into right now.

“If you guys can make these anime characters Black, then we can make Black characters white right? ”

I remember when Boruto came out, and people started making fan art of Chou Chou with extremely light skin. I found myself calling these artists out. So let’s discuss why it’s not okay to whitewash a Black character but it’s okay for a Black artists to draw fanart of popular characters with darker skin. The simple explanation to this is erasure, and representation. When you whitewash a Black character in any medium you’re not only erasing their race, you’re erasing the diversity, if any, that was clearly meant to be displayed within that show or movie as well.

We already know the show doesn’t cater to us, it’s not killing anyone, if a creator decides to add that one Black character. Boom. We being represented in a small way. Better than nothing. More importantly, whitewashing characters kinda fucks up their origin story. Take the Sunspot issue for example. Most superheroes awaken their powers due to puberty, OR a really traumatic event, like abuse, a freak accident, or dare I even say, a hate crime (Sunspot’s power did indeed manifest from a racially charged fight). And while we didn’t get to delve into Sunspot’s past in the New Mutants movie, by not portraying the original race of a character, he diminished Sunspot and his origin story as well.

Why whitewash the one black character?

Chou Chou from Boruto is a brown skinned girl. She is not light skinned, although she is biracial. She is the only brown person among the next generation of ninjas. Do y’all know how hype I was to see that girl for the first time???? It’s an indescribable feeling. White people don’t experience this because well….. They see themselves on a screen all the time. They see themselves being represented literally all the time. Black people rarely get that in anime, specifically. Drawing an anime character Black when they originally aren’t is a way to be like “Hey I know they’re not Black, but since I rarely ever see myself being represented in anime, how cool would it be if this person looked like me?” And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

So when white people rebuttle and say they’ll draw a Black character with lighter skin or make them look white I ask, why? We’re represented with maybe ONE Black character in an anime show, why would you want to take that from us? It makes no sense. Like if you hate seeing Black people in anime, just say that? Because some white people really don’t even care about Black anime characters existing. And some don’t actually care that anime characters are being drawn as Black characters right now. They just want something to bitch about. It seems very childish and ignorant. If one genuinely can’t understand why it’s wrong to try and gatekeep fictional characters like this, seek help.

Lastly

In conclusion, blackwashing is not a real thing to me. And if we look at the definition of whitewashing then we know that blackwashing can’t be a real thing, because there’s rarely an anime, if any, that is targeted to a black audience. I think the drawings are phenomenal. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see yourself accuratly represented. And obviously, we can’t force anyone to include us in anything. We’re not harassing non black poc’s to represent us in their shows. I just think it would be nice, to see us represented more.

But if it’s one thing about Black people, we gone create our own spaces baby! I’ll have to come back to this post to add them, but I’ve actually seen quite a few Black Mangakas and I think it’s so neat! Toni Morrison once said “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I’ve never read a manga with a Black MC, so to see these men and women creating these cool stories is really inspiring.

Thoughts?

Anyways, this is the end of my rant. I’d love to hear people’s opinions. But I think I explained as best I could, about why I don’t think blackwashing is a real thing. I could understand if we were the majority being represented in an anime show or movie, but we aren’t. I’d more so like to hear from an Asian person’s perspective, how they feel about it. Again, I don’t think any of these artist mean harm, but more so are simply reimagining a character that looks more like them, because we don’t see it as much in anime. I’m always up for discourse!

Until next post!

11 thoughts on ““Black-washing” is not a real thing

  1. Your thoughts were spot on. I really liked the Sunspot part...I haven't been following the New Mutants story so it gave me much needed backstory obliviously. It seems like they totally messed up his character and it's whatever, but I'm glad I know the "real" Sunspot haha. Don't forget the Cloud village has alotta "black" characters who were great male and female. I haven't watched much of Boruto, but I think Chou Chou mother is from the Cloud village. Anyways..keep doing what you do!!! Much Love and Peace to you and everybody reading!

    1. Yeah the Sunspot thing really bothered me, it really sucks when you are familiar with a superheroe's background, and then Hollywood goes and messes up their origin story. And true, I totally forgot about the cloud village. That's probably the most black people I have actually ever seen in anime haha.

  2. I totally agree with you and loved this article. Even if I'm not African American, I'm still half Japanese American and I think this same thing can be applied to other POC as well. I've seen the term used for 'yellowface' incorrectly so many times it makes me mad.
    Getting back on track, yes a lot of anime lacks African Americans but hey, one of my favorite characters Ogun, in fire force, has been hinted as Nigerian descent and I think he's such a bada** fire fighter if you excuse my language and is one of the good guys. A lot of minorities have been painted as villains in many entertainment and it's good to always see when we are represented as good too. 🙂 Anyway I loved this article and hope to see more of your writing in my feed in the future!

    1. Yeah I totally agree, I’m glad we are seeing more positive poc representation in film and tv. I haven’t gotten to the second season of Fire Force yet, but yes I did see that there was a character of African descent and thought that was super neat! Thanks so much for reading as well as sharing your thoughts 😄

  3. I COMPLETELY agree with this. I've seen so may aggravating comments about "black-washing" under the pins of my "black bby anime ✜" Pinterest board that I put together with all my love and innocence. I made it when I was first getting into anime, and I was obsessing over Yoruichi Shihouin from Bleach (who made me click on episode 1, Season 1 in the very first place). Not gonna lie, I was just tossing a bunch of cute pins in there (and excited to watch anime), and I only woke up to the fact that most of the characters weren't actually black in the anime from a comment saying "this is blackwashing, and if you think otherwise you're racist" that had about 124 likes, on a recreation of a character called Mai Sakurajima. My heart sunk. (Not in like a drastic way, but like it was a lot to swallow, because I didn't even know how to feel when it had all those likes; I eventually took it off my board because I was trembling). Now, familiar, and very comfortably a ride or die anime fan, it still stings so much to see people dragging black artists and being utterly BLIND to the derepresentation of black people in anime. Dare I saw they're just full on white supremacists who can't stand the sight of brown skin on a stunning female anime figure: but I better be quite cause they don't like that kind of exposure. It's good that I've toughen up, but they're still people on Pinterest who think backwashing is a thing and its literally so confusing how they can be so intolerant to a pin with a black anime girl AND detailed expanations to them like this rant you did here. They just don't wanna hear it. Not that I care anymore though, Hinata looks way better with Karui's skin tone ANYWAYS. 😉
    (No for real, it makes her lavender eyes pop so well)

    1. Yeah I notice people still get upset seeing a character from anime reimagined with darker skin. Boo hoo for them lol its not harmful in the way black and brown characters are erased/under/mis represented in anime. I hope you're still pinning those black characters to your boards! No one cares what the haters/racists thinks. Thanks for reading!

  4. Lol, if you think it's mostly "white people" who have a problem with blackwashing anime characters, do I have a surprise for you... Speaking as an east asian person born in east asia, educated in the states, and currently living in east asia, I can assure you that your average east asian is probably far more racist and/or colorist towards darker skinned people--why do you think darker skin is less represented in anime or manga or webtoon or anything that's made in east asia? Obviously there's the demographics thing, but don't think this... backlash is somehow a "white supremacist" thing.

    The blunt and unfortunate truth is this. Colorism rules east asia and it's not gonna change any time soon because it's actually a time-tested tradition (no value judgement intended), not the case of internalized euro-centrism; a phrase like "porcelain-like skin" was used to extol the virtue of bright skin tone as a standard of female beauty before more than 99.9% of east asians even knew that caucasian humans even existed. The thinking was, darker skin meant more exposure to sunlight which meant that you were low-born and thus undesirable. This classist thinking persists, and obviously there's a good dose of racism attatched to it. You'd be VERY hard-pressed to find an east-asian female who thinks getting a tanned skin would make her more attractive, and even if she does, the hard-core peer-pressure culture means she probably wouldn't get to explore that course of action.

    What does this mean? This means there's a good chance anime creators and east asian anime fans would think blackwashing anime characters is making them less attractive, and a surprising amount of people (only to naiive western people) will even think blackwashing would make those characters inferior. I can speak from experience that they would probably have no real qualms about thinking that and even expressing that opinion because PC culture is a lot less prevalent there. This is true especially in Japan; it's a country where the MeToo movement got murdered before it even took place because victim blaming in Japan is just one century short of honor killing. I have lots of problems with how PC culture works in the western world but boy, does that place need some heavy dose of feminism. Oh and hey, guess which country anime is from?

    Ironically, the rationale for many of the objections would be somewhere along the lines of, "anime and manga are OUR thing, why do THEY (insert varying levels of condescension and downright racism) have to take it and try to make them THEIRS?" (sound familiar yet?)

    And there's a whole another issue of how darker skinned female anime charaters are perceived in Japan. Due to a certain Japanese teenage female subculture (look up "gyaru," and watch out for NSFW content), there's a strong perception of female characters who voluntarily gets dark skin (as in, lacking a "suitable excuse" such as being a student athlete or having an interracial herritage) as gyarus, who are mostly seen as mean, airheaded bimbos. It's gotten so prevalent that there's a whole subgenre of manga and anime where the central premise is "hey look! This dark-skinned gyaru is actually NOT a mean-spirited raging loose girl! Who would have thought, eh?"

    So what am I trying to convey here? What's the message behind this two-bit amatuer hour of impromptu neckbeard east asian studies essay written spotaneously by an internet rando with no real professional or academic qualification other than some claims of "lived experience" (ugh) on an almost-a-year-old blog post that's probably not going to change how anime or manga is created and consumed?

    The majority of creators and the target audience of anime and manga will react rather poorly to blackwashing of (mostly female) anime characters; this could come from:

    Colorism: "Ewww, she's ugly now!"
    Racism: "Ugh, she now looks like a (insert creative yet horrible east asian racial slur towards darker skinned people)!"
    Feeling of ownership over the genre/work: "She's one of MY/OUR characters! If you want a darker-skinned character, make your own!"
    Idiosyncratic cultural subtext: "Wait, does that mean she's a mean bimbo?"
    Idiosyncratic cultural subtext with fetishization: "Hehe, she's an EASY girl now."

    There will be exceptions, but expect this to be the norm. Now you know, and don't be surprised.

    1. My post was targeted towards white people specifically bc most if not all the Black artists I follow, are often attacked by that demographic regarding their work. While I did take some time to consider why other certain demographics that weren’t white would be unhappy that their characters are essentially being altered, you explaining the history and reason behind that disdain for East Asians specifically, was definitely enlightening and puts things into perspective behind this entire debacle. Thank you for sharing your opinion.

  5. So first thing is I want to say is I agree with you, but I was wondering one thing, you said it would understand if someone were to whitewash if the majority of the show is black at the end of your "rant", so does that mean it would be understandable to whitewash in shows like boondocks or something?

Comments

%d bloggers like this: