‘The foundational cornerstone is intersectionality’: Students discuss the misrepresentation of race in the media

Ahead of the International Day for Elimination of Racism on March 21, UBC Equity Ambassadors and the African Awareness Initiative co-facilitated a “Realities of Racism” event yesterday at Place Vanier to discuss the misrepresentation of race in the media.

The event featured Emmanuelle Andrews and Kristi Carey, two graduate students at UBC Social Justice Institute, as keynote speakers. They discussed intersectionality as something needing more thought and representation within film and television.

“It’s not necessarily what’s in the frame that demands our attention but the political, economic, cultural and social contexts to which we are watching [that do],” said Carey.

“The foundational cornerstone is intersectionality, see[ing] the world from the perspectives of all our identities at once,” said Andrews.

According to Andrews, the daily consumption of media — especially television shows — can have more influence on people than they want to recognize.

In particular, she emphasized that it has the power to make the audience “internalize a lot of the messages [about] white supremacy, racial hierarchy and heteronormativity.” For example, shows that try to make light of racist stereotypes can fall into a new category called “lazy anti-racism.”

“Performance of some lazy anti-racism ends up still perpetuating the same violence it tries to side step,” Andrews said. “What is most worrying in these instances is the intimacy of the social justice sounding comment to its racist undertone.”

Both speakers then attributed the reason behind this perpetuation of racism in the media to the content’s stickiness over generations, which adhere to the “desired whiteness.”

“When we interact with the media, we need to consider what exactly these images are haunted by — histories of [colonialism], racial violence, global imperialism, heteronormativity, sexism and the list goes on,” Carey said.

After the presentations, attendees formed discussion groups to analyze different advertisements that recently depicted either explicit or implicit forms of racism.

“This event is important because we can gloss over the racism we see in media and [assume] we’re getting better, [but] racism has become so covert it’s hard for people to realize it’s there,” said fourth-year student Moni Ghosh.

“If we don’t detect [it], then we can’t move on to a world where this is not happening.”