You Don’t Get to Decide Someone Else’s Race

Originally posted on Tumblr on October 16, 2013 as an unedited, stream-of-consciousness piece.

We meet again, Fandom, when it comes to talking about diversity.

The good news is that it’s not Star Wars that is the culprit/subject of this piece today but rather Agents of SHIELD.  To be more specific, it’s some of the viewers and commenters.  I’m not in the mood for flowery language today so we’ll cut right to the chase:

You do not get to decide who counts as white based purely upon what you think they are.

Since Agents of SHIELD started, plenty of people have been quick to note how white the show is with the exception of Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May.  While I am all for more diversity and for calling out shows when they lack it, there’s just one problem here: Agents of SHIELD stars two actresses of color.

I will be the first to admit that Joss Whedon has not been the best about casting a diverse mix of actors in his shows.  Angel was slightly better than Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the inclusion of Gunn and Dollhouse had both Boyd and Sierra but they were all still overwhelmingly white casts.  And let’s be honest: there’s really no excusing Firefly with its Chinese-American culture fusion and not a single Asian to be found amongst the main cast.  So this is not me being a Whedon apologist.

Actress Chloe Bennet plays Skye, the hacker for Team Coulson.  Bennet, despite what some people on the internet might think, is biracial as her father is Chinese and her mother is American/white.  (She also had a singing career in Beijing which is pretty darn cool.  That girl is incredibly accomplished for being only 21.)  This does, in fact, make her a woman of color.  For those keeping track, this means that a third of the main cast is comprised of Asian women.  While I can grudgingly understand that not everyone looks at her and automatically recognizes that she is biracial, some of the comments that people have made when informed otherwise have been a bit unsettling.  Many of them can be boiled down to “Well, she can pass for white so she doesn’t count towards the ~visual~ diversity of the cast.”

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