The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Community weighs in on media representation

Illustration by Amber Davis/The Collegian

jose romero & lydia regalado
senior editor & campus editor

Studies show people are a result of their environment, and part of that environment is media representation, TR Campus associate professor of English Johansen Quijano said. 

Media representations can impact personal attitudes, he said. When a person is represented positively, it can breed inspiration, but if represented negatively, resentment can form. 

Quijano spent his formative years in Puerto Rico where he said television was diverse and offered representations of multiple cultures. Shows were broadcast from countries such as France, Spain, Japan, the U.S. and South American nations. If he were raised in the U.S., he would not have been exposed to as many international cultures through media, he said. 

“There is a lack of representation of minority groups in American media because those who control the studios and networks are not part of minority groups,” he said. “As such, they, at best, ‘don’t see race’ and ‘only do what is most efficient in the market’ and focus largely on works that appeal to majority groups.”

Eva-Marie Ayala, a TCC alumna and Education Lab editor at The Dallas Morning News, said at its heart, covering education is covering race. She reports on issues across Texas with a particular focus on education, poverty, racial bias and inequality.

Ayala grew up and went to school in a low-income neighborhood in North Fort Worth and said not much was expected from her and her peers.

Now, she takes part in the diversity, equity and inclusion council of The Dallas Morning News and is a member of the national board for the Education Writers Association. 

Narda Pérez, an audience journalist for The Dallas Morning News, said she loves the progress being made towards inclusion in the media. Pérez is the secretary and treasurer for the Hispanic Communicators of DFW, an organization dedicated to furthering the visibility and roles of Latinos within the education and communication fields.

She said it is important to highlight the lives, struggles and successes of all people of color and minorities.

“When you think of diversity, you think about Black and Brown people, but it’s much more nuanced than that,” she said. “We have to collectively amplify the voices of the LGBT community, AAPI community, people with disabilities, people who chose not to pursue higher education, people from different religions, etc.”

The portrayal of communities impacts children —  particularly children of color, Ayala said. There is no one way to talk about race or cover issues for communities, but the past year has put a sense of urgency on the media to make representation a priority. 

“It requires constant reflection and constant approaches from different areas,” she said.

When it comes to Hollywood and its portrayal of minorities, Quijano mentioned a common trope where non-white characters are villains or uncivilized. “Avatar,” “Dances with Wolves” and “The Last Samurai” are a few examples he gave in which the native groups require a white savior to overcome adversity. 

According to the 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report, people of color made up 19.8% of lead film roles and women made up about 32.9%. However, Quijano said studios are getting better at addressing the lack of representation in media. 

“CW and Marvel do well, for example, but there is still some work to be done,” he said. “I think the way forward is to get people from minority groups in positions of leadership and help promote diversity at a socio-cultural level.”

Instead of encouraging tolerance, people should practice acceptance and welcome other cultures rather than fear them, Quijano said. 

For South Campus student Elijah Chapman, minority representation in media is important because it demonstrates media isn’t exclusive to a particular race. 

“Movies like ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and ‘Black Panther’ have inspired me,” Chapman said. “Most of the cast in those movies are African Americans, and each have done a tremendous job at playing their parts, showing that there is room for more people of different colors to be a part of media.”

Chapman said it’s important to learn from the past, not repeat it, and give minorities the privilege to be represented in media like everyone else. 

“One quote I remember from ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ states that the clones have the ‘same heart, same blood,’” he said. “The same is true for everybody in the world. No matter who I walk past, I always see a human being. Everyone has the potential to be a part of something. Never count anyone out.” 

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