Whitewashed Woman Of Color

By Robyn De Leon

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When did you realize you’re whitewashed? Was it when you distanced yourself from looking too “chola”? Was it when you tried so hard to go over that kinky curly with the straightner one too many times? Maybe it was when you purposely nabbed a foundation that was a color too light for your complexion? Did you even notice you were whitewashed at all?

It wasn't until late in my high school career that I realized I had been whitewashed all my life.

When I was in junior high, I could be caught doing all of the above. I had the kinky hair, the olive toned skin, and the afro-latinx features that if not purposely hiddencould be mistakenly accentuated.

But I didn’t think I was whitewashing myself. I didn’t even know what whitewashing was nor what it entailed at that time.

Whitewashing, in my experience, was a subconscious practice. A practice perpetuated by the media that was trying to convince young girls of color that they would be at their peak beauty if they tried to emulate whiteness as much as possible. Whitewashing didn’t mean just looking white, but also acting white. In order to do so, a person of color would have to disregard their culture, traditions, and ancestry. Their whole identity would have to be washed clean. Clean, colorless, white.

Whitewashing can heavily be the fault of the media, societal norms, and systemized racism. Specifically, Hollywood has time and time again been a culprit to perpetuating the practice in various ways. An example of whitewashing is the casting of Scarlet Witch in Marvel’s original film, Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the Marvel Comics Universe, Scarlet Witch, also known as Wanda Maximoff, was originally created as a Romani woman of Jewish descent. She had distinct brown skin in various issues of the Marvel comics, but her origins were completely ignored. Instead, Elizabeth Olsen, a white woman was cast.

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Even instances as subtle as casting a white actress or actor in place of a person of color can do damage to society in the most unimaginable ways. By disregarding the opportunity to introduce a character of the minority, those in power in the realm of media are also disregarding minority individuals who look up to these characters as role-models.

Whitewashing affects kids like it affected me in junior high. This phenomenon has created a mass of children of color going through the same trouble of confusion and self-hatred that I went through. A person’s worth shouldn’t be measured by how white or how white they can be, but by their character.

So Hollywood, stop being cowards and give us the representation that we deserve.