Say Si Alumni & student talk about the need for positive racial representation in films

Media representation.

It affects everyone in different ways.

For some it’s easy to find TV characters or movie characters who look like you or share similar experiences as you.

But for some, it’s a little harder to find.

Especially when focusing on racial identity.

Representation can be defined as a display of an artistic likeness or image.

“As I got older a lot of those roles were for white people or just like…they were never for Latinos…specifically or there just wasn’t a lot of variety.” Local Filmmaker, Esmeralda Hernandez said.

Hernandez noticed early on representation for her Hispanic culture sometimes is lacking.

“In media growing up at least,” Hernandez said, “there wasn’t a lot that I saw myself and my community represented in. I feel like the show I watched all the time because it gave me some sense of validation was the George Lopez show.”

A similar sentiment another Local Filmmaker, Kristin Quintanilla agrees with.

Especially with her bi-racial heritage.

She’s half Hispanic and half White.

“Its very sad because people need to be seeing people that look like them in media,” Quintanilla said. “And they need to know that they also have that same voice that they can use to get representation.”

Another problem when it comes to representation, when there is so few examples, you end up being the spokesperson for your race.

Assistant Professor of Media Studies at UT Austin, Adrien Sebro explains how this affected Black-led TV shows in the 70s.

“With that they had the unasked for burden of the race,” Sebro said. It’s like no one wants to be the spokesperson for the entirety of a race.”

So, why is it important to have proper representation?

“It just validates your experience of being a human,” Esmeralda Hernandez said. “Being able to morph into these characters whether you’re a person of color or not. Because we all have the ability to tell these stories.”

Communications Studies Professors at St. Mary’s University, Ana Bendana said the solution is letting those who are under represented tell their stories.

“Minorities of any label should have a responsibility to put their stories out there,” Bendana said, “like let us hear it, say it loud. I tell my students, you have a voice, you have to use it.”

Something both Hernandez and Quintanilla hope to do in the future.

“I know that in my place it’s not really mine to speak on but I want to give people the platform so they can share their stories,” Quintanilla said.

“And to see the spotlight to shine positively rather than negative on people that are always misrepresented in some way,” Hernandez said.

Both women were inspired to become filmmakers after joining Say Si.

They offer after-school programs for both middle and high school students.

And it’s not just filmmaking, they teach art, theater and news media.

Click here for more information on how to be a part of Say Si.