Students participating in the wokeshop. Photo courtesy of Tajianna Okechukwu.
the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity hosts first ‘wokeshop’ of the semester on people of color and representation in film
The Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity (SCRD) hosted “Film N Color: Stereotypes in Hollywood,” on Wednesday, Sept. 26. This event was the first “wokeshop” of the semester. Wokeshops are a series of events hosted by the SCRD and ethnic organizations to discuss racial issues in a creative, engaging way.
Luiz Figueroa, SCRD intern and senior international business major, said that the SCRD wanted to raise awareness about the lack of representation and the negative stereotypes that people of color experience in film.
At the wokeshop, attendees viewed and discussed the portrayal of minority groups in clips from different films.
“It’s important when you’re younger to have people to look up to. In most movies, the heroes don’t look like us,” Figueroa said. “If we’re there at all, we’re the sidekicks, the villains or the comic relief.”
One video gave an example of the evolution of Latinx stereotypes from early film to the modern era. They showed how Latinos were portrayed as lazy, dirty and unintelligent over the years, by being cast as the villain in old Westerns, and then by being cast as the criminal in modern films. then and now, Latinas are portrayed as the “dark lady,” the “seductress,” or the “female clown.”
During the discussion portion of the event, the attendees discussed the implications of stereotypes like these on the developing psyche of children. Children of color who grow up without representation often feel as if these stereotypes put them in a box.
After showing the negative stereotypes, the SCRD interns showed some examples of positive representation in media. They showed how the film “Hidden Figures” breaks down the stereotype of the “angry black woman” and instead, tells the true story of several intelligent, capable women.
“If film is supposed to be a representation of life, then you should represent all people,” Figueroa said. “and if you’re going to tell stories, tell everyone’s story. But make sure that you tell it accurately.”
Makyla Barajas, a freshman engineering major, said the event opened her eyes to how cultures are negatively or stereotypically portrayed in the media.
“I knew how people from my culture could be misrepresented in movies and TV, but I never really thought about how other cultures can be misrepresented,” Barajas said. “There are some things we assume about other cultures, but only because the only time we’ve ever seen them is on TV.”
Freshman Petrina Gratton, a double major in psychology and vocational ministry, said that through her involvement with the Latin American Student Association (LASA) and Black Student Association (BSA), she has learned that there’s more to racial dialogue than she previously thought.
During the discussion portion, attendees brought up the dangerous effects of stereotypes and caricatures present in children’s movies.”I’ve learned that there’s so much more to racial issues than just black and white,” Gratton said. “With every culture, there’s a lot of issues and assumptions that are made that go back throughout history. Learning about some of the nuances of those stereotypes here today was helpful because now I can recognize and guard myself against them.”