Why Representation Matters
Representation for young children is imperative. Two important aspects where representation can be improved are in movies and in the food given out at school.
Although it has definitely gotten better, representation in movies and television shows has lacked for many years. A lack of representation has not only caused young children to feel like they will never be successful, but it has also caused them to feel insecure about themselves, whether it’s about their appearance, cultural practices, or sexual orientation. With no one to look up to they feel like society will not accept them or they are not “normal.”
The first Disney princess movie with a woman of color was such a big moment, yet Disney decided to make Princess Tiana a frog for most of the film. Imagine a young black girl finally excited to see a princess with the same skin tone as her and then for the rest of the movie they see an amphibian. Not seeing people on television with their skin tone as children can cause them to self loathe because they do not feel like they are pretty enough to meet the beauty standard (which is thin, able-bodied, white people).
Similarly, young kids do not see food at school that appropriately represents their culture at home. A lot of adults often share their experiences about how lunch time was their least favorite part of school as an elementary school student. They explain how their cultural food had different and unique smells compared to all the other kids with PB&J’s. They explain how their classmates would scrunch up their noses and use dog treats to describe their food. No matter what the insult was, they were always ridiculed for bringing their homemade meals. This causes kids to be ashamed of their culture and it takes lots of people up until their adulthood to be able to celebrate what they once loved. Schools need to be more inclusive with the foods they serve at mealtimes.
Allowing kids to express different parts of their identity helps them be comfortable with who they are as a person and it lets them know that they are enough. From movies to foods, we can all do better to help everyone find self acceptance.