By: Aynsley Broom
Diversity. Representation. Identity. These are three words that seem to be circulating constantly in the media, social media, and everyday conversations. People who come from diverse backgrounds haven’t had much of a voice or say in anything till recently. Thanks to the internet and the ability to learn new things this is changing.
Take me for example. I live in and grew up in a town in Arkansas where, until recently, there didn’t seem to be much diversity. I have a mom who is Samoan and a dad who is a European New Zealander. They immigrated to the States in the 90s. But, I didn’t really know much about my Polynesian heritage till the last year. I mean, I knew I was half Samoan, but other than that and knowing my mom grew up there, I never really knew much anything. And, it never occurred to me how underrepresented Polynesians were in mass media.
I live in and grew up in a town in Arkansas
Sure, we have a few people like The Rock, Jason Momoa, the movie Moana, but that’s kind of it. This past year has been a journey for me in noticing how little people really know about the Polynesian community. Take an instance that recently happened on Twitter. A few people who saw Jason Momoa and a group of Polynesians perform a Haka at the premier tweeted how they were ripping off Black Panther or how it seemed a bit “Wakanda-ish”.
You can only imagine how upsetting it was to me that the rich culture of Polynesia that has been around for centuries was being compared to a fictional culture. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Black Panther and what it meant for people who descend from Africa.
Movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians are wonderful examples of what representation can do for different communities. I don’t think it is fully realized how the representation of diverse communities can make a positive impact on people. When you grow up in an America where princesses or leading roles go to people who don’t look like you, grow up the same way you do, or come from a place of privilege when you think those dreams are not reachable. I will admit that I have been fortunate enough. I am passing and I have wonderful parents who made me feel like I fit in. However, I knew growing up that I was different in a way. That I didn’t always fit in completely. And, it wasn’t really the color of my skin. Some cases it might have been, but I don’t think so. It was that I was raised with Samoan and New Zealand values, my parents are different from the parents here, and just smaller things that add up. There was just something that didn’t always add up, and I had to work to fit in with the rest of my friends.
When you grow up in an America where princesses or leading roles go to people who don’t look like you, you think those dreams are not reachable.
I recently visited New Zealand and there is a movement for more Polynesian representation in the country and it just clicked. There’s a different vibe there. I could imagine what it would have been to grow up with role models that you could relate to. People who could understand you on a deeper level rather than just be an example of what could be. A place where you see someone like yourself be successful, get the guy, or something spectacular then you too feel like you can do that yourself.
A place where you see someone like yourself be successful
Some people may brush this off as something that’s just a mild complaint, but it’s not. Diversity in any place is important because it brings a wonderful perspective. Representation is important because it can help a person find their true identity. And, when you finally feel like you can find your identity than you feel like you have purpose and direction. I am still on my journey to learn more about my heritage. I will be the first to tell you that I’m so behind, but I’m not going to give up learning. And, I’m not about to give up working for more Polynesian representation or even more diversity. I’ve enjoyed seeing what representation has done for African Americans and Asian Americans, and I will continue to root for them. It’s when we come together that change will happen.