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.
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.
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.
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.
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!