Tumblr and Characters of Color

by - 5:21 PM

This is a semi-(hopefully)complete guide of the How To's and How Not To's of editing in Tumblr. Especially when the book has characters of color.

Let's speak about the problem first: You go on book Tumblr (meaning the fandom who likes book and does edits of their fave books and takes pictures of their books and reviews and more). Book Tumblr is a bit white you see. You see a lot of white models and white books. It's a fact. But when you suddenly find yourself before an edit of a book that you know it has a person of color as the main character but this edit doesn't show this.

Why? Because they've been whitewashed. You can whitewash in various ways. This is a guide of how to do it (and avoid doing it hopefully in the future):

This is what you can call "the grey aesthetic edit." This is a big trend on Tumblr. But as you can see ~ it clearly whitewashes this model's skin. IT. LOOKS. WHITE. Her skin is dark-brown. First, it's not pretty. This theme Tumblr has going on with the grey thing is horrible, sorry not sorry. I'm just telling it how it is. You can find 10823738733 book edits with this theme and I'm so tired of seeing this because it's just disrespectful. 

Another thing going on is the pastel aesthetic. It practically does the same as the grey aesthetic thing, it whitewashes a person's skin just to fit the pastel aesthetic they want to achieve. I want to tell them all a secret and that is: You can achieve that pastel theme you so want without whitewashing someone's skin. It can happen. I assure you this. 

I just saw an edit for a book I loved and the main character has brown skin but this edit what it does it makes the model LOOK WHITE. If I didn't know better I would say the model is white. But because I have seen this picture on Pinterest I know the person in the picture has brown skin. Yet if I didn't know this, I wouldn't have known and say this person is white ~ and she isn't. 

The next one is the black/white square in a picspam. This is so annoying but I have seen it many times in Tumblr *sighs* Someone does a picspam* of a book they love, they put everything so spot on and even include the characters. And when they include the POC.... they put them with the black/white theme. The only one with the b/w is the POC in this picspam of colors. It's shitty as heck. Don't do it. You're whitewashing again! 

*Example of picspams if you don't know what they are:

And the worst of the worst: Fancasting someone light-skinned or white when they have dark-brown skin or that are black.... Just why? These are some of the book characters I see more in Tumblr that get whitewash in terms of people put a light-skinned model or a white one. 

(My fancast for Laia of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES)
(My fancast for Ari of ARI AND DANTE)

Other characters that are not white but get fancasted as white:
  • June Iparis (Legend trilogy)
  • Day (Legend trilogy)
  • Leo Valdez (Heroes of Olympus)
  • Adelina Amouteru (The Young Elites)
  • Zoe Nightshade (Percy Jackson series)
  • Piper McLean (HoO)
  • and more......
In the show business world, light-skinned celebrities are more popular than dark-skinned ones. That's why when you search for fancasts you almost always find the light-skinned ones on the top because they are the more popular ones. So please choose models with brown skin or dark-brown skin or black model when it's canon in text, don't just choose whoever you want just because the one you want has the same characteristics but not the same ethnicity. 

Interchanging cultures. This is another way to whitewash characters of color. Mainly because you're interchanging their cultures with another ones ~and they aren't the same. This is also, sadly, very common in the community. (Can also be seen in the twitter book community, in the form of the book aesthetics). I understand that it's the way "you see the character when you read the book." But I'm sorry, nope. If the book explicitly says the ethnicity of the character, you respect that. It's canon. 

What I see the most is interchanging East-Asian models/actors in edits. Chinese is not the same as Korean is not the same as Japanese is not the same as Mongolian is not the same as Taiwanese. You see a lot of fancasts with Korean actos/models in edits for books that have Japanese characters or Chinese characters? I know it's easier somehow but it's not right

I know it's hard to find fancasts just the same as the book describes them. But you might find someone as close to the description if you don't find them fully. "I couldn't find pictures" is not acceptable because there are many of them out there. Sue from daisycalloway @ Tumblr did a great post with links where you can find models of color. I am also adding these other sites you can find POC to fancast in your edits:

Here you have 10+ links to find the perfect fancast for your book edit. So please don't interchange and be respectful. Don't whitewash. Don't erase POC from books when you're doing edits. We get the rep in books but when we look at Tumblr it's like it was never there in the first place. 

Will leave Mana's fabulous threads here so you all can follow her and praise her because she's always so vocal about this and she's always right tbh

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  1. This is such a great guide! Thanks for bringing the point about interchangeability...I wrote a paper about it for one of my classes because it just was so important to me.

  2. This is a really great guide. I'm with you on the grey/pastel aesthetic - I see it all the time on Tumblr and it makes me want to weep. I make edits myself and I like to amp up the colour in my work because I'm so tired of the washed out colours I see everywhere. I've tried to make a point of not reblogging any sets that whitewash the characters. And thank you for those links - there have been edits that I wanted to do but couldn't find the right pictures for.