Color Code-switching: When Characters Are Black, But Not Black
This isn’t the first time this topic has been visited, but Code-Switching is real for people of color (see All Your Favorite Cartoon Characters Are Black). Othering and exclusion are feelings that people of color are all too familiar with. Othering is arguably the greatest causes of conflict among humans according to the HAAS Institute of a Fair and Inclusive Society. There were not many black cartoon characters that I saw growing up. Choosing characters that looked like me during Halloween was always a challenge. This has changed quite a bit in the past few years but there is still room for improvement.
In a positive light, I believe the creators of the characters below were attempting to create positive social change by being inclusionary. The traits assigned to these characters probably led to them being claimed as our own:
Skeeter – Doug
I always related to Skeeter more than Doug as a kid, but never really put my finger on why until I got older. Skeeter was Doug’s black best friend. If it wasn’t obvious by his style of dress, these are the facts: Skeeter DJ’s, teaches Doug how to dance, is a sneakerhead, beatboxes and even has his own slang *honk honk*. If you’re a 90’s kid I know you just heard that in your head.
Piccolo – Dragonball Z
First, he dressed up like the Fresh Prince. He was Gohan’s caretaker (nanny?) Next, his style of fighting, the othering and inability to blend in, and the fact that he looks like your bald uncle at the cookout. He always felt like he was going to catch up to Goku, but never quite could.
Panthro – Thundercats
All of the other Thundercats are shades of orange to white…Panthro is buff, bald, and blueish grey…see points regarding Piccolo. And what is up with them making the characters blue anyway?
Powerline – A Goofy Movie
If you are reading this piece, you probably do not need this one explained to you. I would argue the majority of the main characters in A Very Goofy Movie are black anthropomorphic characters, but Powerline is 100%. The style of dress of the dancers and the fact that Eye to Eye is voiced by Tevin Campbell are overwhelming indicators here. Still not convinced? -> see this article by Black Nerd Problems.