Tumblr page for Racebending.com - Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality.

Please feel free to browse our tumblr page for the latest community-sourced information about media representation in Hollywood.

    smallswingshoes asked
    I was curious if you'd ever heard about the term "P.I.G.S."? It was a term used not too long ago by the U.S. government (from what I remember from class years ago; I might get details wrong) and it stood for "Polish Italian/Irish Greek Slovak." They were all groups of people who weren't considered white at the time. I found it interesting at the time because it distinctly occurred to me that many of the lines we draw are arbitrary bullshit. Your thoughts?

    Answer:

    The definition of “whiteness” in the United States has shifted over time in order to—you guessed it—protect the interests of people who benefit from “whiteness.”  Two noticeable expansions of the concept of [white] American-ness are the inclusion of poor white people after the Civil War and the inclusion of Irish/Catholic/Italian/Eastern Europeans, etc. after the Civil Rights Movement.   (Hmmmmmm…..)   The book How the Irish Became White is one of the more famous books on this topic.  

    Critical race theorists like to use the term “differential racialization” to label this phenomena.   They also note that race is a social construct:  ”categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient. ”

     Critical writers in law, as well as social science, have drawn attention to the ways the dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times, in response to shifting needs such as the labor market. At one period, for example, society may have had little use for blacks, but much need for Mexican or Japanese agricultural workers. At another time, the Japanese, including citizens of long standing, may have been in intense disfavor and removed to war relocation camps, while society cultivated other groups of color for jobs in war industry or as cannon fodder on the front. Popular images and stereotypes of various minority groups shift over time, as well. In one era, a group of color may be depicted as happy‑go‑lucky, simpleminded, and content to serve white folks. A little later, when conditions change, that very same group may appear in cartoons, movies, and other cultural scripts as menacing, brutish, and out of control, requiring close monitoring and repression.  (Delgado & Stefancic)

    theiwatobipool asked
    What's your opinion on racebending POCs to other POCs? I was wondering about this after seeing a Fire-Nation Korra with Water Tribe bending brothers

    Answer:

    Now this is a really interesting in universe question!  Someone summon Bryke!

    It really goes back to how “race” in the Avatar world is socially constructed.  Is it based on the element you (or your relatives) can bend?  The color of your eyes or skin?  Or the country you live in?

    We know that in the original series, Katara, Toph, Sokka, and Aang pretend to be “Fire Nation” and successfully pass by explaining that they are “from the colonies.”  Because of the culture’s policy of imperialism and assimilation of conquered peoples, these characters were able to (pretend to) identify as Fire Nation relatively smoothly.  

    Another example might be the character of Ty Lee.  In the series, she identifies as Fire Nation; it’s the nation she grew up in.  But—look closely —her physical appearance (hair and eye color), personality, and “bending” skill set would imply that she is actually descended from Air Nomads.  And, at the end of the series, Ty Lee joins the Kyoshi Warriors, so will Ty Lee come to identify as Earth Kingdom instead?  Or is she always going to be Fire Nation by birth?  Is she actually Air Nomad all along unbeknownst to her?  Is she “racebending”?   Or are the lines (social constructs) defining the Four Nations “bending” now that national integrity is no longer under threat from Fire Nation imperialism?

    Is there a history, for example, of Fire Nation actors portraying characters from other nations in an oppressive manner?  Are people from Earth or Water tribes forced to change their physical appearance to fit in?  Is there colorism?  I think that within the context of the Avatar world, bending Korra to be “Fire Nation” is different from bending Korra to look more (real world) white.  Unless, of course…those motivations are intersecting…

    • Lori:

      I completely think that. I think there’s definitely a sort of differentiation between benders and non-benders

    • Marissa:

      Yes…there are certain sports, occupations, etc that are simply bender only.

    • Lori:

      Especially considering how benders who weren’t Firebenders were treated during Aang’s time; now that people are free to be Water/Air/Earthbenders again, the balance could have started to shift again

    • Marissa:

      It almost seems like what happened is: Firebenders in Aang’s time were the most privileged, least oppressed. And over the past 70 years what’s happened is the Firebender privilege category expanded to encompass all benders

    • Lori:

      Since I know Aang is all about balance (as all Avatars are) but Korra is what, 16? The world has technically been without an active Avatar for 16 years. So during that vacuum while Korra was growing up, other benders wanted to experience the privilege that firebenders had enjoyed. They didn’t forget what it was like to be oppressed, and they wanted to prove it. Sometimes to the detriment of their non-bender fellows.

    • (Click the source to read our analysis of Korra using a racebending lens!)