I read an interesting article on Facebook the other day. It was about the movie Rogue One and the effect the accent of Mexican actor Diego Luna had on a woman and her father, who is also from Mexico and has a similarly heavy accent. If you want to read the article, do so here.
I don’t have an accent, but as a brown person who, as a child, rarely saw people that looked like myself on TV or anywhere else that matters, I teared up reading this article. It might seem like a little thing but representation does matter. When children don’t see people that look like them held up in the media as someone pretty or valuable or even just normal, they grow up feeling like outsiders. They feel different from everybody else, like they don’t exist.
For me, the saddest part about this is that I grew up as a mixed race brown person in Australia where everyone (well, not everyone but the vast majority) was white. When we moved to Jamaica when I was 10, I thought, ‘Finally, I’ll be like everyone else!’ But the opposite happened. People in Jamaica considered me white. I wasn’t one of them. I was a white person as well as a foreigner. An outsider squared. The only upside was that I found other mixed race children to hang out with and also brown skin was considered more desirable than darker skin so I traded up in that respect. Still, I was too skinny to fit the ideal Jamaican body type so I suppose I broke even in the end.
I don’t know how much different my life would have been if I was born looking like everyone else. When you’ve never looked like everyone else, you can’t possible imagine what it would be like to fit in. In the same way I’d imagine that if you’ve always been one of the majority, you can’t really see the privilege your skin colour, your slim body or your accentless voice gives you. Not that this is anyone’s fault. It’s just the way the world is and it will be a long time before anything changes in a major way. But it made me smile that something like this got so much traction, that people were moved by how happy one person was made because he saw a hero on screen that looked and sounded like him. Imagine how a young boy or girl would feel if they saw someone that looked like them featured in a magazine or in a movie and as a major character rather than just the sidekick to the hero? And it’s not even just a race thing – it’s a gender thing, a plus size (not sure if I like that term but oh well) thing, a sexuality thing. There are so many ‘things’ that can automatically dump you in outsider territory besides just race.
Yet with all I just said, I like enjoy different nowadays. I like being ‘exotic’. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But then again, I can’t, can I? I’ve just learned to love the things that make me look different from everyone else. I’m sure some people with the same experience still wish they could fit in and look like the people around them. And I think that’s sad and I hope one day they can embrace the things that make them different. Because the world is a better place for diversity even if Hollywood and fashion magazines and TV shows are only just starting realise it.