Racism, colorism, featurism, misogynoir, and representation: Why casting biracial people in place of black people erases them both

Hollywood will often cast biracial women in so-called “black roles,” even in biopics where the original person was black. They do this because of a mixture of white supremacy and misogyny. Proximity to whiteness rules beauty standards, and decides acceptable levels of blackness. How black can you be before it’s unacceptable (i.e. in this case marketable)?

The lighter the skin, the better; the more eurocentric features, the better; the looser the curls and straighter the hair, the better. All this shit is relative, but the rules are there and reinforced constantly. And it’s particularly done to women, as their appearance is scrutinized more heavily, and they’re objectified to a much greater extent.

It sends out the message that black is not beautiful, and biracial is only beautiful because of its whiteness. It erases black women as they do not get to see themselves represented authentically, and creates a manufactured and false standard of beauty they often cannot live up to because it’s literally not them. And it erases biracial people as they do not get to see themselves represented as what they actually are and their reality, but as someone and something else. Racism is at play there, too, as so-called “interracial” relationships are still rarely represented as neutral or normal — for obvious reasons (e.g. “mulatto” comes from the Latin word for “mule;” who represents the donkey and who represents the horse?).

It all creates a false reality that some will think is real and valid, with real-life consequences. Consequences that is felt by the ones being inaccurately portrayed. I know this for a fact. Research and studies over and over again proving this set aside, I’ve seen and felt this personally.

This is why I cannot commend and stress the importance of creators like Jordan Peele enough; for centering — not only black people — but dark-skinned black people continuously in his feature films and projects. This is not a coincidence. Peele is biracial, and a highly intelligent and socially aware man (social commentary is his hallmark); he knows exactly what he is doing, and I absolutely love him for it. He is changing the landscape, the narrative — and thereby views and attitudes — by creating stories about black people, played by black people, in all their actual humanity. Not stereotypes — humans. Fully fleshed out humans. An artistic visionary.

Never underestimate the power of media consumption and representation. For it often shapes our worldview — for better or worse.

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Anine Bråten

Anine Bråten

Student, feminist, anti-racist, activist. Freelance writer and public speaker.