COLUMN: Internalized racism targeting a mermaid

Kasey Rhone

Halle Bailey is now part of Disney's world, as Ariel in the live action remake of "The Little Mermaid."

Many people seem to have a problem with the fact that Bailey is Black. Social media is inundated with armchair experts who are claiming it's the "science" of mermaids or the region in which the author lived could not possibly be Black. A mermaid - a fictional being - scientifically can't be Black, they insist. Interesting.

They claim that a mermaid who lives near Denmark would have to be white. This ignores the fact there are Danish people who are Black. This also ignores that this Danish author wrote a book about a green, fictional sea creature that wanted a soul.

These 1989 movie purists are now resorting to fictional character science to justify what is merely racism. Mental gymnastics are required to avoid admitting that seeing a Black woman play a character they've come to associate with their childhood is a problem for them. And for most of these people, their childhoods have ended.

This new live action movie doesn't mean that all copies of the 1989 cartoon will now be destroyed. It means a new generation of little children might see a mermaid who looks like them. It means young white children will watch a story with a lead character who doesn't look like them, and they will learn, unlike the adults around them, that people of all ethnicities are main character material.

As a reminder to all those who feel uncomfortable looking at the gorgeous Halle Bailey, living her best life under the sea, I encourage you to examine exactly why seeing a Black person playing an imaginary character is so upsetting. Sit with this internalized racism and stop trying to use science to back up your feelings of discomfort.

Kasey Rhone is coordinator for the NSU Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

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