I used to follow Humans of New York on Facebook. I quickly noticed a trend. Most of the photos seemed to fall into three broad categories: (1) successful white men “reflecting” on their privilege while lamenting their lost youth/dreams, (2) jolly black guys in Port Authority, and (3) adorable children, often of color. I realized the only brown/yellow people allowed on the page were the small ones–cute children to add a little bit of unthreatening ethnic flavor. A minimal, safe amount, without all those weird smelly hang-ups.
After I noticed this trend it wasn’t fun anymore so I stopped following. I still get it shoved in my face when people on my feed like the posts or I hear about the books. Oh, look at the little boy wearing traditional brown people garb! How cute! Except if a grown brown man were wearing the same thing, people would be yelling terrorist! and giving him dirty looks on the subway. Meanwhile, the white men expound on their life stories (a lot like these) and wax poetic.
Colored people are only allowed on HONY if they’re completely unthreatening to its white male creator and mostly white consumers. This is done by portraying black guys as magical negroes or only having child versions of colored people on–children can’t be suicide bombers or steal your jobs. They’re cute and innocent!
I haven’t looked at any of those posts in a while so maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe things have changed. But to me, it was yet another thing that emphasized how America does not view people of color as full human beings, to borrow the phrase from Americana. It’s demeaning and offensive of the HONY creator to assume POC don’t have stories to tell, to assume the yellow/brown people don’t speak English, and to deny us our humanity.