How racism stopped me from even dreaming

I love, love movies. I’ve been obsessed with stories and storytelling since I was a baby. My mom made me learn how to read when I was three because she got tired of me begging her to read to me. She hired me a reading tutor, I learned, and I have no memory of my parents reading to me.

Through childhood and adolescence I devoured stories and later, movies–I remember watching the Little Mermaid over and over at age five or so. I’ve been in love with all sorts of movies my whole life. They’re a refuge, and an escape.

You might think I would have wanted to go into filmmaking or some other field that involves storytelling–writing, etc. I do kind of the opposite (I’m a lawyer). In my dissatisfaction with work I’ve been mulling over why I didn’t think about pursuing that field, or something else more creative. I skirted around it–in college I took a film class (boring as hell), an acting class (Alexander technique, ugh), and an animation class (that was fun). It was just out of a liberal arts interest, though, and I went on to major in biology. I’m a lawyer now.

I’ve realized one big reason is that I never saw anyone who looked like me in those roles. I’d watch DVD commentaries narrated by the white male lead and the white male director, where they would riff for two hours on how beautiful the female actors looked. The names in the credits were overwhelmingly white, and mostly male. How could I envision myself becoming like one of these men, when I knew most of them would rather pretend I don’t exist, unless they wanted to have sex with me?

Relatedly, the white male controlled world of filmmaking etc has a perspective that refuses to try to see or understand anything beyond its preconceived notions or perspective. They could, with effort–they’ve just never had to do it, because every story is about them. If a story is somehow not focused on them, it doesn’t matter and they refuse to see it. I don’t matter to them, my stories don’t matter to them, and they don’t care about anything I have to say. How could I get a movie made? My movie made? “My movie.” It’s impossible to even imagine.

So that’s what it is. How could it happen? How could I make them see me as someone whose story matters? You could say all that’s holding me back is fear, or that I have nothing to lose by trying. I feel like I do have things to lose–my time, my energy, hope, continued degradation and dehumanization and rejection of the idea that I could present anything that matters. All the potential pain.

Who knows, maybe I’ll one day have enough time and energy and money to invest into this. But it saddens me that I never even had the chance to think about this and waste some time in my 20s trying. It didn’t even occur to me to try. I wish I could have.