God, I loved this week’s premiere of Fresh Off The Boat. This show is giving me life. Funny and sweet and hitting the right notes that would keep me watching anyway. Anyone can relate to a parent dismissing your most fly outfit because it is too expensive. Anyone can relate to feeling out of place and making sense of cruelty and irony that is childhood. I do. I am invested.
I’ve masked the original photo and replaced it with a caption so you know what we are referencing.
Then fellow blogger Grace Hwang Lynch posted a photo of a busload of bloggers during an event for the show. I am familiar to these kind of blogging trips. I have been flown out to headquarters or offered access to products or invited to dinner, etc. I’ve been fortunate to attend a few of these junkets, when brands and companies who want a unique perspective and select bloggers who can broadcast their mission and invest a lot of money to get the right people in the room. It takes a lot of work to coordinate trips, pay for flights and lodging. Groups like these post and tweet and hashtag the day and get a lot of coverage and create key conversations. There are meetings and metrics and goals. It is not an accident.
This is a bus full of bloggers, none of whom appear to be of color, on their way to an event about a show that highlights a family of color.
I looked through the feeds and photos for someone who looks like me, someone I could relate to, the way I lit up when I identified with what I’ve seen on Fresh Off The Boat and what I read in Eddie Huang’s memoir. The first episode mirrored some of what I experienced as a child having been plucked from the tropical island of Saipan and trying to figure out how to be a kid in Salem, Oregon. Kids made fun of me when I brought a mango to school. My mom finally relented after I complained that no one else ate chicken adobo at school, so I got to eat the cafeteria lunch and fattened up on tater tots and chocolate milk.
That’s my filter. It’s not rose-colored, it’s rice-flavored.
This isn’t about marketing campaigns for canned food or soda or baby formula or a new resort, this is about Fresh Off the Boat–a show that is a big deal to so many people like me who are desperate to see themselves in mainstream media and for the past twenty years plus years, we’ve had to survive on 90210 and Saved By the Bell and an endless deluge of television and movies about white people problems because that’s all there was: How was Kelly going to pay for prom? Would Donna Martin actually graduate? Will Kristin and Stepheeeen break up after Laguna Beach?! There were no shows about how our parents wanted us to do more homework to get even better straight A’s or what awful racism gets hurled our way at the school lunch table when we dare bring something as exotic as noodles.
So why weren’t any minorities invited to this event? I looked through the stream of those who were posting and I couldn’t see if anyone identified as a person of color. It wasn’t obvious. But it was obvious that there were people missing, people like me. And I was mad. And frustrated at such a missed opportunity to explore a show that resonates so strongly with minority bloggers, especially this week when we are all singing its deserved praises.
I received a friendly message on twitter that read, “it was a preset group for other events/activities to which ABC was a later addition. Hopefully more events to come!” Which does explain some things, but also leaves me with questions like, “Was this supposed to be all white, all along?” They hadn’t thought to include bloggers of color because they weren’t going to this show about people of color until the last minute? So minorities were an afterthought even in an afterthought activity? I was told this wasn’t the case, but it feels like it.
I am saying this, this is what it looks like when minorities are not included in something that would be so good for us, for anyone who wants to know–is this how it is? (Yes) How real is this show? (Very real) How should I feel about this? (Excited! Yearning for more!) This isn’t about my not receiving an invite and now getting all hurt and whiney. This is not just my jumping on a podium to tell you this is about race and this is about oversight. This is my saying when it comes to asking bloggers to cover something as monumental as Fresh Off The Boat: INCLUDE SOMEONE LIKE ME. INCLUDE US. Even if it’s at the last minute. Make the effort. We have been waiting and we are worth it. There is room on the bus.
This isn’t about the bloggers who were there, who do have large followings and page rankings. I am sure they are capable of conveying to their audiences what these #abctvevent organizers hope to convey, and maybe they won’t be able to draw on the same experiences of feeling different as a minority but hopefully they will agree with the majority opinion of my friends, bloggers, community and me when we all say: this is a great show, go watch it.
Addendum: So some of the responses have been incredibly supportive and positive and others, ugh. It looks like there were some bloggers of color on board the bus and maybe one person who identifies as Asian? It’s been unclear and there hasn’t been one place that sorts out all this info, just a lot of talk about how more research should have been done without any direction to said research. I used the #abctvevent because I wanted to take up space in a hashtag that had excluded the very audiences the show resonates with and the bloggers who could have been part of something powerful. This is more than a blogger event. This is another instance in which Asian-Pacific Islanders have been shut out and then when we speak up about being excluded, we have been told to promptly shut up. Here are some other bloggers who haven’t shut up at all and I love the words that are loud and not going away: