We Need to Talk About Katniss

“When might young readers of color realize that the characters I am rooting for are not positioned like me in the real world, and the characters that are positioned like me are not the team to root for?”

–Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, The Dark Fantastic

Content warning: mentions of racial violence and police brutality

Thousands of people marching in the streets for a week straight. Police officers–sworn to be peacekeepers–attacking and murdering in full view of cameras, with little to no legal repercussions. Fires and looting and the tearing down of Confederate statues hundreds of years late.

Image by PlanetMallika from Pixabay

Millennials–and indeed anyone who has ever watched a movie–have realized pretty quick that real life is mimicking fiction right about now. Stories involving overthrowing tyrannical governments like The Hunger Games, or Star Wars, or even Harry Potter are all starting to feel eerily familiar. In fiction, it’s always easy to see who the heroes are–Katniss Everdeen…Luke Skywalker…Harry Potter. They’re the ones storming the castle, or leading the battle, or any other dramatic throw-down involving explosions and the glory of victory.

It’s been super easy for white people to look at these stories about underdogs fighting the system and go, oh wow–a story about me and my struggles! Which… sure, us white people have plenty of struggles–I mean, sometimes Target doesn’t have that strappy sundress in the size we need. The line at the DMV (pre-plague) is obnoxiously long. And sometimes–sometimes–the local organic market is completely out of kale. Quelle horreur.

Of course, this is not to say that white people have never had personal problems to deal with–but they’ve never been SYSTEMIC.

We have been conditioned to only see ourselves as the heroes in stories, even if the narrative itself doesn’t actually support this.

This is something that author Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas talks about in her book The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games. After reading this work over the weekend, it has come to my attention that, fellow white people–we need to talk about Katniss.