Race in Orange is the New Black

The Keywords essay for race discusses the representation of race in children’s literature, as well as the topic of anti-racist literature. The typical historical portrayals of minorities in literature largely reinforced derogatory racial stereotypes, making them a terrible representation for children of color. Not only are the representations of African Americans, Latin@, Asian, and other racial minorities inherently negative, but they also tend to be few and far between. Many times, the literature that had these racist representations also contained attempts to somewhat justify the oppression that were experienced by many, while also displaying white children as dominating the children of color.

While many contemporary forms of media now have more and better representation of minorities, it’s still remains a fact that an overwhelming majority of leading characters are played by white actors. This is a continuation of the history of poor representation in popular media that has existed for centuries. A hit Netflix show that battles for more characters of underrepresented groups is Orange is the New Black. While the show still features a white main protagonist, the amount of characters of color and LGBTQ+ orientation is excellent, when compared to other shows and movies that exist now. It discusses issues related to women of color, which is something that doesn’t receive its fair-share of screen time across the board. While the representation still isn’t perfect, portraying the full spectrum of ethnicities and races is something that all shows should aspire to. The way that race is a part of many of the characters’ identities is more realistic that the typically stereotyped “Mammy” figure that is often the go-to for African American women. Each character also has a fully developed personality and arc that extends beyond just what’s at the surface level, while also incorporating how race relates to their backgrounds.

Not only is the representation in this show excellent, but there are also conversations that call out racism and common offensive stereotypes in the show. In one scene, one character is told she’s racist for joking about racial stereotypes surrounding Hispanic people. She jokes that “they all want to come to America” and another character mentions how this comment is racist. The calling out of certain stereotypes, especially ones that are harmful and offensive, can speak to the audience and hopefully spread a message. Overall, this show does a good job of not only having a racially diverse cast, but of working to spread more tolerance and potentially reverse some negative stereotypes that exist.

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