Why it is Racist to Say that Doctor Who is Racist

I think that’s going to be my new trademark: starting my blogs with strange sentences that make you think “Wait, is this guy serious or is he just insane?” But I mean it. Even though this suggestion that Doctor Who promotes racism has already spread across the globe, it is an accusation which makes the accuser more of a racist than the show itself. Here’s why:

When I look back on Martha Jones, the Doctor’s only black (full-time) companion so far, there are always a few things I think of. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I’m sure those who have watched the show will know the first few things that will pop up in my mind. The fact that she is black, however, is not in my top 50 most important memories. After all, it’s not relevant, is it?

Yeah, if only… Rather than taking characters such as Mickey Smith and Martha Jones for who they are, incredibly funny people with great courage and determination, these researchers decided to reduce them to one characteristic: their race. Suddenly, what they had done or what they stood for no longer mattered, because all that mattered to this research was the colour of their skin and all their imperfections.

Of course, the Doctor has never been a black guy. Then again, none of the Time Lords have ever been black… But rather than calling that racist, how about the idea that perhaps Gallifrey, where the Time Lords come from, doesn’t have a place where people could become black? They don’t have the same atmosphere, they don’t have the same sun, they don’t have any reason to get a black skin.

“But that doesn’t matter, because it’s not real and the show is created by humans,” I can hear critics think. But it DOES matter! The thing is, there is no reason to be forced to add black people to a TV show when it doesn’t fit the storyline. The Doctor should never be black, because then he would be the only black Time Lord… ever. And his DNA can’t be that special.

So, here’s my suggestion: stop reducing people to the colour of their skin. Mickey and Martha are amazing, but so are Rose and Rory. There shouldn’t be a difference, and by making that distinction you are being a racist. I am sure there will be plenty of black or Asian actors in the show in episodes to come, but it would be ridiculous if the BBC was forced to add them as soon as possible, because that would suggest that black people are indeed different or weaker or inferior. But here’s the shocker: they are not.

~

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More on this topic from Dean Richards:

White People’s Opinion on Racism is Important

Racism in Young Children: Our Future

Irrational Activism: Why “Black Peter” Should Not Be Called Racist

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About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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4 Responses to Why it is Racist to Say that Doctor Who is Racist

  1. Chris says:

    Your statement indicates that Time Lords are special in the fact that they are time lords. They come from a particular place that would negate any reason for racial differences, but the Doctor being white, a time lord, and the main character indicates a particular superiority in itself. That connected with the extremely limited range of roles provided for people of color are an issue that we shouldn’t ignore. Your sentiments are rather problematic, in that they express that it is okay to continue to limit what people of color can be. The normalization of whiteness, with it’s vast range of possibilities (main character, to main villain, to side character, to infinite conceptualizations of character etc.) and the limitation that TV and film place on people of color is a problem (you’ve named two characters out of how many possible characters that impact the story?). While I agree that we shouldn’t reduce people based on race, I disagree that it is okay to limit the roles of people of color on any show, regardless of the nerdy-sci-fi based racist logic.

    • Part of your comment is exactly what I am criticising. You state that “the Doctor being white, a time lord, and the main character indicates a particular superiority in itself.” So what are you suggesting? That every white main character is racist? There are a lot of white people in this world, and the statistical chance that the lead role of a British tv series goes to a white man is pretty large.

      Now, in this case, that’s not even an issue. The thing we have to realise is that the show is 50 years old, and that the writers now have to base their plot on whatever was thought of back then. Back then, they did not introduce black characters because there was still quite a lot of blatant racism and issues with race in general. The fact that the show is still based on the same characters is not a reason to call it racist now.

      Now, what I don’t understand by your comment is the suggestion that I believe that it’s good to limit the roles of “people of colour on any show”. You are putting words into my mouth which I would never even consider. I am not suggesting that we should limit their roles. I am suggesting that we don’t pick characters on the basis of their skin colour, because it shouldn’t matter. We all know that the BBC is not racist, so why would they be forced to show that by giving every tv show a nice balance between genders, race and sexual preferences? Why can’t they just choose characters based on what suits best?

      To me, a good example of this “anti-discrimination” gone wrong is the show Merlin, also by the BBC (an example I only just came up with, because I only thought about this when I was reminded of it by this lovely research). This show is supposedly set in a medieval-like setting, yet there are quite a few non-white actors in there (Gwen and a lot of background actors, if you pay attention), which is odd, and historically wrong. Yet, they are there, because the BBC is forced to put them in there to promote “racial quality”.

      But that’s not racial equality. Racial equality is a world in which we can speak about history honestly, in which medieval Europe has no black people and in which shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are just as racist as shows like Merlin. It is a world in which the truth is dominant, rather than the fear of uncovering non-existent weaknesses in certain races, because every time the word “racism” is mentioned, people will be reminded once more of the differences that once were, and due to this, still are.

      • Chris says:

        I think you’re more focused on justification as opposed to understanding racism (overt/covert) and how it is perpetuated. It isn’t about intent as much as outcome. The latter is the point I was making, when we justify in the way that you are it promotes (unintentionally) the limitation of roles for people of color. Effectively, hiding, flattening, and creating an environment that is ripe with stereotypes.

        I noticed you are an aspiring writer and gay rights activist. In your writings I doubt I would find dialogues that (unintentionally) do the same thing to the lgbt community.

        It’s important that we bridge between movements. What I am implying is that in order to be truly down for a cause is to understand how they are connected. Gay actors of color, become just as limited by the justifications you are presenting here.

  2. I am in no way justifying racism. I am justifying that not everything that seems like racism is actually racism. A good example is a football club near me which only has Islamic players: when the referee makes a decision against them, they often shout that they are being discriminated against, while anyone with at least one working eye could see that it is their behaviour/actions which is the cause for the fact that the referee ruled a certain decision against them. The point of this example is that racism or discrimination is often perceived there where it doesn’t exist at all.

    Now, this is especially the case with sexism, which is very often in the category I’d call “self-discrimination”, but fortunately, this is happening more and more to racism as well (which means progress). However, to truly reach equality, at one point, activists will have to disappear, and the start of that is making activists such as yourself aware of this issue. Activism can have the opposite effect of what it is supposed to have, and that is very much the case here. This research only reminds people of racism and frustrates them when it concerns their favourite show, while it is definitely not going to do any good for the “fight against racism”.

    Now, this brings me to the kind of discrimination I am involved in. You mention that you believe that I do the same things while standing up for the LGBT community, and you could be right. However, I am constantly aware of this particular issue, and I try to avoid ending up in this “self-discrimination”. If I’m doing it right, then it should not occur at all.

    I am actually going to write my bachelor thesis on this subject (which is why I’m quite interested in this), as I believe it is something which needs to be made clear. I do want to add that with racism, unfortunately, it is still often truly a problem, and what I am concerned for and what I tried to point out is something usually associated with sexism/feminism. However, sometimes it happens with racism as well, and what I want to do is to try and make people aware of this so that it can be minimised.

    As someone with strong opinions myself, I always have to remind myself to think open-mindedly and to consider the opposite. People with strong beliefs or opinions are often quick to judge, and that is what I want to make clear here: don’t judge too quickly.

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