Why there is so much complexity in the representation debate

Why there is so much complexity in the representation debate

I always say that I don’t want to write solely about race, because honestly it’s exhausting constantly having to justify the need for equality time and time again (and sometimes I just want to write about things I enjoy that aren’t political or depressing, just like any other writer) but the world refuses to listen to society’s countless articles and complaints and I find that my writing always moves in that direction.

Yesterday, Sherif from Love Island spoke out about why he left the villa, putting an end to all gossip and dramatic stories. The real story, however, was much less dramatic and had me saying “okay, here we go again”. In an interview for The Sun, he explained that he accidentally kicked a female contestant whilst play fighting and proceeded to describe the incident using an offensive term. Following the release of his interview, Twitter erupted with hundreds of complaints, with Love Island fans calling for a review of the shows policies. It frustrates me to think that there are contestants on previous seasons who have behaved in a similar way, if not worse, and managed to get away with it without so much as a warning. I clearly remember a contestant on the last season of Love Island using the same offensive term during an argument, which the producers turned a blind eye to (surprise, surprise). And although Sherif’s use of the word took place in a much more light-hearted context, he was kicked out immediately.This is not to say that Sherif’s actions weren’t inappropriate, but the injustice is that there are different rules for different people. It’s sad that those who aren’t black are above the rules and get a pass because of the colour of their skin.

And honestly, after this incident and countless other issues with the show, representation isn’t what I want anymore. Though it’s important to have representation in multiple spaces, from politics to reality/trash TV, to highlight the fact that black people are multi-faceted just like any other race, it shouldn’t be a priority. If representation comes at the expense of the feelings of minorities, I don’t care for it. Watching Yewande and Sherif being chosen last (and just about every other black person on the show) was very uncomfortable. Sherif’s experience, among others, is not only mentally damaging but sends a message out to other black people that we are not respected or valued in those spaces. The show needs to make an effort to amend it’s cast to reflect preferences in a way that means there is someone in the villa for everyone, or at least a higher possibility of finding someone.

This issue comes up constantly not only in TV, but in most other spaces. It was only this week that Michael Gove, among others, revealed his use of Class A drugs only to have his “mistake” brushed off by the clearly racist media. Diane Abbott was pictured drinking a Gin and Tonic on the tube a few months ago and the criticism she received was disgusting. In the run-up to the general election, Diane Abbott alone received almost half of all the abusive tweets sent to female MPs. I believe MPs should be able to do what they like, none of us are saints. But again, the issue is that institutional ingrained racism means the system works in favour of those who aren’t black. Considering Diane Abbott is one of the only Black MPs, in parliament, it doesn’t take a genius to work out why her treatment was so different to other MPs.

The UK still has a lot of progress to make in regards to representation and I hope it soon starts to listen.

Until next time,

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