Explaining white privilege to most white people is like trying to explain to a blind person what colors are. Because the white male voice is the main viewpoint expressed in media today, people of color are left without media that speak to our experiences.
It’s awards season and yet again and Latinos are nowhere to be found.
Feminist and ethnic theorist Peggy McIntosh perfectly explains what white privilege is and how all white people benefit from this system that unconsciously creates a feeling of superiority over other races.
One of her criteria for feeling accepted in a culture is: “I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.”
Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the U.S., even surpassing African-Americans, Asian-Americans and other hyphenated second-class citizens. Yet, we only make up 4 percent of onscreen presence in the movies.
But what I found most amazing is that Latinos go to the movies more than white people. It seems as though Hollywood is missing out on making big money by giving the most intriguing characters to white people.
At the 2014 Golden Globes, non-white people graced the stage only three times. Three times. This is not a personal attack on any of the winners or nominees of the Golden Globes. The system of racism that plagues awards season, and Hollywood is to blame for a lack of breadth and depth of non-white actors.
What compelled me to write this column was the excitement I felt when watching the fifth installment of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. The four previous “Paranormal Activity” movies featured white families in overwhelmingly white Anglo-Saxon protestant upper-class neighborhoods.
In “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” the movie portrays a Mexican-American family in a crowded, working-class barrio in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I haven’t seen this much diversity in a major movie franchise in recent memory.
The movie begins with one of the main characters giving his valedictorian high school graduation speech. Soon after, his Mexican family has a fiesta to celebrate his academic achievement. This visibility is crucial. Portraying Latinos as educated normalizes us. We become part of the cinematic fabric that white actors have benefited from for generations.
For the 2014 Academy Awards, the most prominent Latino who was nominated for an Oscar is Alfonso Cuarón for “Gravity” which received 10 nominations. Too bad Cuarón couldn’t have had a Latina portray Dr. Ryan Stone in “Gravity.” Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz or Zoe Saldana could have played her, just to name a few.
Hopefully I don’t feel so marginalized next year during awards season. Being marginalized is like being invisible. I wouldn’t wish this feeling upon anyone.
Hollywood’s lack of diversity won’t be solved overnight. However, maybe this column will inspire more people of color to pursue acting. Maybe it will motivate white people to recognize how incredibly unequal our portrayal of minorities on screen poorly matches the actual populous.
I hope that people will begin to realize that Ralph Ellison’s words in “Invisible Man” still ring true today:
“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie extoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind.”
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @gilromeo92