This post is not going to be very pretty or formal or nice sounding.
Even though I have much better things I could be doing, I have been reading pages and pages of debate about the casting of The Hunger Games. It took me by surprise, because I am one of those people who read those books in about five minutes each, so I don’t remember much being discussed about race. That’s because race wasn’t discussed. But also, because I am not white, and also because I’m American, and also because I read a lot, I have been socialized to accept that not talking about race means white, and talking about it means non-white. So the fact that Katniss’ race is never mentioned explicitly made me surprised to see this debate come out. Also, I just didn’t know they were making a movie. Also, Hollywood and publishing are two of the greatest assholes of American culture (or is American culture just one giant douchebag?), so unless a book’s main plot is about being biracial or non-white, generally it’s accepted that the people in it couldn’t possibly be anything but white. I guess I’ve been acceptably brainwashed, because surprise! It’s possible that Katniss is not all white.
That would be awesome, but then there’s all that shit about the “Caucasians only” casting call, and so the debates begin.
I’m not going to rehash any of them, because I think to anyone with half a brain and an eye for social justice, it’s pretty obvious that there is a big problem with the casting call, with the idea that supporting characters are easily thought of as non-white, but Katniss is in contention, and yadda yadda. But some lesser mentioned things that people make comments about are standing out to me.
First of all, how is Collins’ saying that she thinks Jennifer Lawrence will do a great job an admission of Katniss’ being white? Lawrence probably will do a great job. I can see that. And Collins, who seemingly had a great deal of input in the casting process (quite unusual), didn’t get the chance to see any actresses but white ones audition for her protagonist. But I fail to see why saying someone is a good actress means that the character was white. I’ve seen plenty of white authors who just don’t want to deal with whitewashing.
Second, this shit about Panem being postracial is crazy, because that’s not even possible. Race is biological. It is not a fucking social construct. Ethnicity is a social construct. It can be chosen or rejected. What is being discussed with regards to the Hunger Games is race, not ethnicity. I know (mostly white) people like to say that they’re “postracial” or “colorblind” because they think that’s code for “I can’t possibly be racist,” but firstly that’s not true, and secondly it’s no more possible for us to be postracial than it is for us to be post….feet? Lungs? Vascular systems? The flu? Secondly, differences in color should be noticed, because generally race does contribute something to our ethnicity, which means it contributes to our personal identity and our presentation of that identity to the world, and also, differences should be celebrated. What color shouldn’t be is a way of validating discrimination. If you claim to be colorblind, you claim that all cultures are created equal, that all cultures are in essence the same, and that human experience is universal. That’s great for you, Mr./Ms. Privileged To Be From the Dominant Culture, but that not only pisses people off, but it also does you a disservice. We’re not all the same. We’d be boring if we were. You’re also being pretty offensive, because chances are, if you claim to be colorblind, it’s because you’ve never experienced discrimination or marginalization for your color. So thanks so much for diminishing the experiences with racism that I’ve had. I guess I was asking to be told to get out of the country because I walk around not being all postracial all the time?
The moral of the story? Identifying race (or ethnicity, for that matter) does not make you an asshole. Erasing it does. Identifying systemic and institutional racism isn’t nitpicky, it’s not reverse racism, and it’s not contributing to a more racist world. In fact it is helpful, it is intelligent, it can be academic, it is socially conscious, and it is unavoidable to those who experience it.