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Congratulations to Emmanuel Obilor who won the Short Writing Contest!
Black people have long since existed in STEM spaces. Though hidden from view, the existence of black people and their impact cannot be overstated. Though black people have been prominent in science fiction spaces both on paper and behind the scenes from as early as the 1930’s, there wasn’t much visual representation of diverse or authentic black main characters. There was a prevalence of stereotypes and caricatures of black people as “bush people” as opposed to the reality of being black.
Representation of minority groups in all aspects of society is a dynamic that, although sought hard to achieve, is far from realized. There are two primary reasons why representation matters: inclusivity and perception. Seeing people that look, speak, and act like you in the media makes people feel seen and reinforces a positive self-image of themselves and what they can achieve.
The importance of black representation in science fiction goes beyond wanting to be seen by society. It also goes beyond the point of authentic black storytelling which is one of the most important factors of black representation. It is not just telling the story but having us tell our story in a manner that doesn’t portray tokenism or perpetuate anti-blackness or harmful stereotypes.
It’s important to state that adequate black representation sets the tone for future generations. It gives young black children role models who look and act like them, not just in the characters created but in those that create the characters. This is why black representation is pivotal as it’s a stepping stone for more black people to not be afraid to take up space in different fields of endeavors.
Nerd. That word used to describe socially awkward individuals who enjoyed quirky pastimes. The word was an insult. Although reclaimed, the representation heavily showcased within Nerd culture remained overwhelmingly the same. Nerdom was a White space that was awkward for Black/BIPOCs to navigate. The stark truth about the lack of Black Representation in Nerdom is that there is no difference between reality and fiction. Being Black meant not having teachers and professionals to identify with. Being Black also meant not reading or watching fictional characters who resembled our skin tone, our mannerisms, nor our upbringing. Rather, we were pushed storylines of White, alcoholic playboys with expensive gadgets who get to play "hero" and frankly, we can not relate to that. Nerdom created avenues of escape for people who sought to remake and take control of their own worlds. We, as Melanin-gifted people, therefore lacked meaningful escape. Additionally, we see the pitfalls when it comes to lack of Black representation in medicine. How often are we told of the lethality of illnesses and diseases amongst the Black population? How difficult is pregnancy for Black women? Yet, the professionals we look towards for healing and nurturing end up being strange faces who fail to comprehend the nuances of Black health. However, our passion and creativity can only be stifled for so long. We can wake up to webtoons like God Punch, where a young brother named Percy is tasked to protect the Three Realms. We can awake to Odina, a beautiful Black woman, who leads the Omni Strike team against evil. We can hop on to social media and celebrate the young man or woman who just graduated medical school, who passed the Bar, or who started their own anime studio. Every day, we bear witness to the beauty of the Black mind, once suppressed but now growing. Black representation brings inspiration and motivation to every individual who desires to be more than what they are.