Representation in the media and Hollywood: Are lighter skinned biracials/mixed black people the new black? (part 2)

Felicity
12 min readMay 20, 2021

However, there are instances when we see book adaptations of movies and shows. In these books, there is adequate representation for a variety of black people but as soon as they release the acting cast for it, it is giving Black-ish vibes, even though the main character was dark skin with 4c hair in the illustrations. Make it make sense. Let us look at some more examples, shall we?

This was inspired by a thread I saw on twitter by @blairsmus on 12/08/2020.

I will start with one of my favourites. The Bratz live-action movie. We all know that the creator of Bratz made four beautiful representative dolls, to counteract the lack of representation that POC children had growing up from Barbie, including his own daughter. Carter Bryant made an eastern European white doll named Chloe; an eastern Asian doll named Jade; an Iranian doll called Yasmin; and a dark skin black doll called Sasha.

In the movie adaptation of the Bratz franchise, the Iranian doll, Yasmin, was switched to a white Hispanic girl, who was played by a white actress (which was still weird but another day please). And Sasha… Sasha was played by a light skin biracial black actress called Logan Browning.

This is Sasha:

Source: bratzfan.fandom.com — “Sasha” from the Bratz cartoon series

This is the actress who played her:

Source: the-bratz-movie.fandom.com

And again:

Source: emmys.com

This situation was funny because, as children we did not understand the severity of this situation. There is a scene in the film, where Sasha is trying out for the cheer team, and Logan Browning’s stunt double is just a white girl with very extremely orange false tan. It was shocking to discover this whilst watching it again. I think Logan is a very talented actress, however the fact that directors even cast her was super problematic. Biracial black people can be dark skin, I am not disputing that at all. She is nowhere near dark skin. At all. Dark skin little girls and boys were ROBBED to say the least. That would have been one of the first times we saw a dark skin black girl in a coming of age chick flick type film. And we got a light skin biracial black girl…

Next up we have Marvel’s favourite black omega level mutant, Storm. In the marvel comics, Storm is depicted as a dark skin black woman from Egypt, with a heavy accent. In the movies, they gave us Halle Berry… with an American accent. Light skin Halle Berry playing a dark skin superhero. Don’t drag me I love Halle Berry (hallejuah). But this also could have been the first time dark skin black girls got some representation in Marvel.

This is comic book Storm Ororo in the comics:

Source: wirteups.com

This is the actress who played her:

Source: vocalmedia.com

But trust me, it is not as bad as in the reboot of the X-Men series. It was based in the past, showing the X-Men as teenagers, growing up in the school. The first remake that showed the teen versions of the second-generation X-Men was X-Men: Apocalypse, which comes after X-Men: Days of the future past. In this film, we see the recruitment of a young Storm straight from the streets of Cairo, Egypt. You would expect melanin to be popping, accent to be very authentic and strong right? Tell me why, she was played by none other than Alexandra Shipp. A light skin biracial black woman. Do you see a pattern yet? The former House of Anubis actress also stated that she did not care what shade Storm was or her accurate representation, because she does not care about the colour of a “crayon”. YIKES. Her accent was dead as well, they should have at least gotten an Egyptian native at least. We move.

Here is young Storm Ororo:

Source: pintrest.com

Here is the actress that played her:

Source: pintrest.com

And again:

Source: the-house-of-anubis.fandom.com

Let us talk about boys for a bit. When it comes to advocating for black people, and having conversations about the black experience, I do not see many black men on the frontlines. There are a few but leave that all to black women I guess, the pillar of the community. Hopefully more black men become more involved in fighting for their own issues, instead of brushing their issues under the carpet and saying “we get along with everyone just fine” and gaslight black women (THANK YOU). Young black girls and boys go through the same issues, but girls are always gaslit when speaking about it. Black boys do not often voice their opinions. However, someone replied to @blairsmus on twitter, and made a satire joke.

@JordanSumbu quoted retweeted a post mentioning the possible making of a Static Shock movie. Static Shock is a darkskin black DC superhero cartoon.

Source: slashfilm.com

He suggested (AS A JOKE) Corbin Bleu or Marcus Scribner to play Static shock. This was meant to be satire because they are both light skinned biracial men. Many men flared up because of the absurd suggestion, but the maker of the tweet was trying to make men understand why black women go so hard for advocating for decent representation for darkskin characters.

To be fair, on kids’ channels, there was more representation for boys than girls. When you would have a token black character it was almost always a black boy. Here are some examples:

Doc Shaw who played “Marcus” on the Suite Life on Deck and “Boomer” on Pair of Kings, was decent representation. Obviously, the king of the Suite Life franchise, Phil Lewis. He literally carried both shows on his BACK.

Source: epguides.com
Source: j-14.com

Another actor I can think of is Kyle Massey, very good representation, in That’s So Raven and his own spinoff Cory in The House. Also, his brother, Christopher Massey in Zoey 101.

Source: tv.com
Source: teenvogue.com

Corbin Bleu in High School Musical and Jump In. He seemed to be Disney’s only black boy for a minute, because I promise you, anyone could have done Jump In. Any black boy I know could have done it as long as they can sing. Like I loved Corbin, he was really my man at the time I don’t care, but it’s true.

Source: pintrest.com
Source: teenvogue.com

Leon Thomas III was also a token black character we all loved on Victorious. Andre was overlooked and was just seen as Tori’s best friend, even though he was the most talented and the funniest character.

Source: netflix.com

Kenan and Kel on Nickelodeon are separate from this point. They were good representation on that channel, great actors as well. These two are an anomaly because they had their show and their movie whilst representation of black people was in full effect (late 90s/early 2000s).

But then, that got me thinking. Can main characters still be token black characters? Usually if I see a main black character on a kid’s show, they are surrounded by non-black people to overcompensate. So I don’t think it matters if there was a main character who was black, unless the main cast are their black family. Like That’s So Raven had a majority black cast but as soon as it was A.N.T. farm, it was just China Anne McClain in a predominantly white school with that older white girl bully. She had to be racist from the way she was in China’s character’s business like that.

Source: en.wikipedia.com
Source: pintrest.com

Speaking of girls let’s get back to our misrepresentation examples. I liked that Segway.

Zoe “people are pink” Saldana in the Nina Simone biopic.

Source: people.com

In this situation, it was blatantly obvious that Hollywood wanted nothing to do with dark skin black women, even when telling a story about one. Nina Simone was a singer-songwriter and civil rights activist. A proud dark skin black woman in her craft and for her biopic they decided not to cast a dark skin black woman. When someone tried to pull Zoe up on anything to do with race she gets “uncomfortable”. This is shown from the totally offensive, tone-deaf act of the directors and costume designers painting Zoe a dark brown colour and giving her a prosthetic nose to appear more African American. A big, blackface mess:

Source: pagesix.com

Next up, we have Yara Shahidi in the movie, The Sun Is Also A Star. First of all, she’s already on thin ice because her character in Grown-Ish is so annoying.

(sidenote: this reminds me of the Grown-ish episode but they tried to address colorism and used light skin duo Chloe and Halle. The most ridiculous episode I have ever seen of that show. They even changed the saturation when they filmed that to make them look darker. I had to laugh.)

The main character in the book shows a dark skin black girl with an afro. The character, Natasha, is a Jamaican immigrant. As you can see, Yara is a light skin biracial woman. So not only could the casting directors not get an actual Jamaican actress, they went out of their way to ignore details about the character AGAIN.

source: variety.com
Source: pintrest.com

My final example is Amandla Stenberg in general. Amandla uses they as a pronoun, so I am typing it down to remember. Even if you don’t rate someone, it is always important to address the person with correct pronouns. That’s how you drag properly.

Source: indiewire

Where do I even start? Amandla is very successful and very good at what they do. However, over the past decade, there have been complaints about them taking roles that are meant for dark skin black people and just always being the one onscreen when it is time for a black person to be represented.

Their first major role I remember seeing them in was The Hunger Games. Many people do not know as they did not read the book but, Rue, the character Amandla played in the film, was described to have “dark skin” in the novel. Recently, Amandla acknowledged that, Yara Shahidi, Zendaya and themselves are privileged in Hollywood and that darker skinned black women never get the chances they do. See, it is all good acknowledging that, which they have, and Amandla did put it into practice once. I will add that this one time was not seen in a good light.

This was when Letitia Wright got the role of Shuri in MCU Black Panther movie in 2017. After the film had its hype, Amandla came out to say; well actually I gave up that role so darker skinned actresses could have a shot, as if they even got the role in the first place. Why would they even think to audition for a whole BLACK PANTHER? I do not know what kind of false flexing Amandla was trying to do but it did not add up. Honey, you did not even get the part. I have watched almost every Black Panther interview and whenever Chadwick Boseman talks about Letitia, he says that as soon as she walked in for her audition, he wanted her for the role, because she fit it.

(sidenote: I am crying because I wrote this when Chadwick was still alive. RIP Chadwick, Lala Ngoxolo kumkani)

Amandla saying all the noise really did not sit right with me. And Letitia is an amazing actress, so even if you did try to audition for the part, she still would have gotten it. Face your front!

Even after all that I acknowledge colorism crap back then, they still went on to take a role for a dark skin black girl. Am I surprised? This project was the book adaptation, The Hate U Give. The book cover depicts a dark skin black girl so why was Amandla casted for the role. Especially when the story is about police brutality against black people. Dark skin black people are more susceptible to becoming victims of police brutality so like what? And the rest of the characters’ family was dark skin to so what sense did this make?

From researching further, I discovered that the author wanted Amandla for the role, which is still very questionable, but we move. I try not to waste my time talking about Amandla’s casting choices because they were in a film romanticising Nazi boys so that’s none of my business, that’s none of my business.

Do you see the occurring patter here? The issue is not even that these women are biracial. Obviously, half black people can identify as black. If casting directors want half black actors so bad, they could at least find darker skinned biracial black people to fit the role when required. Why is a light skin biracial black person, with type 3 curls, the only black person that Hollywood want to display? (Biracial girl made from a rainbow world, a pretty sight to seeeee).

The black community is rich with people that look so different and unique, yet they always only cast the same demographic of people for the role of one black person, regardless of whether they are fully black of half black. However, ery rarely that person will even be mono-racial. So, the common denominator of this issue is a light skin biracial black person. The fact that the only known actress to turned down roles like this is Zendaya (my girl!)is very worrying. That is one actress amongst many that do not acknowledge their privilege.

(sidenote: Today I even found out that directors wanted LAUREN LONDON to play Issa Rae’s character from Insecure and they were in an altercation about that until Nipsey (RIP) stepped in. IMAGINE DIRECTORS WANTED A LIGHT SKIN BIRACIAL WOMAN TO TAKE A ROLE FROM ISSA RAE’S OWN SPINOFF SHOW? It’s the audacity for me.)

There is an upside to this “representation” issue. When we see darker skinned woman in tv shows and movies, they usually have roles of suffering and pain, anguish etc. I personally want to see darker skinned black women in coming of age roles, easy going, happy, intelligent without struggle roles. Dark skin black women are often the foundation of the strong black woman narrative and are expected to put everyone before themselves.

Ana Dibiah put it quite nicely. She said let the biracial light skin women take the mantle as the pillar of the black community instead of unambiguous black women. While they do that, let the rest of us focus on getting positive promotion for darker skinned black women. Let us be love interests with simple, light-hearted storylines. These storylines do not need to include any oppression either. Struggle and challenges in a storyline of a movie is completely fine. It occurs in action/adventure/fantasy/sci-fi films all the time. That is my favourite genre of film. However, can we please allow black people to take more roles where the struggle and challenge is not based on them being black?! Please! How can dark skin black people worry about racism during the literally apocalypse when zombies are running around? Those zombies will not discriminate on what race of brains they will eat!

In addition to this, I am more than happy that light skin, biracial black people are getting their representation. I would suggest that the representation for then should be separated from darker skinned black people (biracial or mono-racial), so it is fair. Biracial people should have their own category. Not all biracial black people identify as black. It is totally fine to identify as just biracial (or mixed, as many people do). There are more than enough seats at the table to allow a lighter skin biracial black person and a darker skinned biracial or mono-racial black person to be seen. We need to learn to coexist in the media without one image of the black community representing the rest of us. We can all be represented at the same time.

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