The corresponding posters can be found below. They’re free to download but please give credit/shout out should you use it. If you’re looking for a print version, that’ll come in the future. email me if you’d like to know when.
The goal with the posters was to define clear language around erasure and, its counter practice, naming. Folks found the first versions extremely useful, using them at work, in presentations, lectures, and for their own personal use. I added and modified the design of the first into what you see below.
A Canadian white dude by the name of Marshall McLuhan is oft-cited as the one who said the quote, “Fish did not discover water“ – or something of the sort. Another paraphrase: "Fish are the last to discover water".
The point: fish, who have always known water, grew up in water, and swim in water daily, will be the last to recognize it. I think it also surmises that the fish don't have a high degree of self-awareness.
Well, there is hardly a better analogy for folks with white privilege, my frenz.
The journalism industry and the media industry have both approached narrative telling and framing from a perspective that cannot see out of itself. That’s to say, these white-dominated spaces of media creation have only known their point of view and their world as they see it, as they've experienced it, and as they’ve grown up swimming in it.
The dominant culture does not know how to properly name what it does not know. What it has never known. What it has not experienced.
The phenomenon is widespread. We see it in our history textbooks, we see it in how news outlets choose to frame a story, we see it in how the most prolific creators of our time – writers, filmmakers, professors, CEOs of media institutions – are those who most closely mirror the dominant narrative: white and male.
This poster is meant to combat these (traditional, dare I say subconscious) practices that have afflicted media making. While it should be useful to white folks, it’s really a tool for those affected by erasure. We need this naming so that we can better spot the BS.
Dismantling Erasure is a constant practice. It takes time to unlearn the habits because for so long, ERASING marginalized folks has been the norm. No one stopped to consider the contexts — intentionally. The goal (once) was to eliminate people from this land and from many others, and so erase their stories and histories. In order for a just society come into existence, these systems must be undone. The system will produce what it was intended to produce. We shouldn't be surprised. For white folks, the work is unlearning and making space. This can be a whole other post, so I'll stay focused.
And if you don’t think you’ve seen it, felt, it, or question that it exists, well I call that swimming in privilege.