Photo courtesy of author Shivani Mangar

Activist Rachel Cargle Starts A Conversation About Racial Representation In The Media

6 min read

As the media's outreach has expanded over the years with the rise of technology and social media platforms, representation has become a more prominent and debated issue among the public. Media outlets and platforms that primarily use images to engage with their audience, have an enormous responsibility in shaping how people perceive reality, as well as their roles within it. Rachel Cargle, an activist, writer, and lecturer whose work focuses on exploring the intersection of race and womanhood, posted a series of images to her Instagram that have elicit an interesting conversation from the public.

Rachel Cargle

Photo credits: Julia Fullerton-Batten, Sophie Merlo, and Chris Buck, respectively

A series of screenshots from Rachel Cargle's instagram post

The photographs depicted in Cargle's post were taken by renowned photographers Julia Fullerton-Batten, Sophie Merlo, and Chris Buck, respectively. The photographs portray reversed racial roles between white people and people of color in effort to start a conversation about how certain racial groups are portrayed in the media in correlation with their actual realities.

When the media portrays people, specifically women, of color in a stereotypical manner or as lesser characters, it implies that the general perception of that racial group is solely identifiable by specific characteristics they may or may not possess.

In the first image by Fullerton-Batten, a black woman is shown elegantly dressed while a white woman breastfeeds her child. This particular concept may seem familiar and it is. Photos of slaves breastfeeding white babies have made their appearance in history books for decades. During colonial times, black women were forced to serve as "wet nurses," breastfeeding white babies while their own went hungry.

Sophie Merlo's photograph also offers a reconceptualized depiction of slavery in which the white man is portrayed as the slave to a black slave master. The image strives to shift the power in favor of the oppressed while calling into consideration how history, or rather the present, would be different had this dynamic occurred on a massive scale.

The last three images of Cargle's post are from photographer Chris Buck's conceptual series "Let's Talk About Race," which flips representation on its head by reimagining modern-day occurrences in which racial roles are reversed. The series was originally published to O, The Oprah Magazine's May 2017 issue, in effort to create an honest dialogue about race and our perceptions towards it. What makes this particular series especially unique is that images such as these are never portrayed in the media simply because they do not often, or have ever, appeared in real life.

Like these photographers, Cargle aspires to begin a conversation about the significance of representation for both over and underrepresented groups and how the images, stories, music and products we consume alter what we believe to be true about ourselves and the world around us. In her caption, Cargle refers back to a snippet from Sabrina Worsham's article which addresses the media's influence on social norms and the identity of the youth.

"One of the strongest routes by which media appears to influence attitude-change is through persuasion. Eisend & Moller (2007) discuss how media can have an immediate effect on one's perceptions of social reality. The constant persuasion of what is "reality" plays a pivotal role in one's development of a negative [or positive] self-image," wrote Worsham.

When the media portrays people, specifically women, of color in a stereotypical manner or as lesser characters, it implies that the general perception of that racial group is solely identifiable by specific characteristics they may or may not possess. With overrepresented groups in privileged positions, women of color are not often afforded representation in the real world. For example, lack of women of color showcased in the media wearing cultural clothing, with various skin tones, or even speaking their native languages, significantly decreases the acceptance of those characteristics in the real world. Western standards are sold as "acceptable" while anything that strays from that box is met with negativity or resistance.

These images expose how class and power among minorities directly impacts the quality of life they are "allowed" to have while living in a society that has already seemingly categorized them away.

While we often discuss the importance of minority groups seeing accurate, rather than stereotypical, representation in the media, Cargle suggests that it is of equal importance that overrepresented groups acknowledge the roles they play in the world, as well as the impact their roles have had on the self-perception of the underrepresented. For some, it may be difficult to grasp what the world looks like from another point of view, however, it is necessary towards understanding what divides us and hinders growth within certain communities.

For one instagrammer, Cargle's photo series appeared to strike a nerve, but revealed exactly the underlying issue that makes representation necessary.

One of many comments on Rachel Cargle's post

When the idea of role reversal, in which white people play the roles of minorities, suggests that they have become "servants," it further proves that their current dynamic within society is typically understood as that of "servant" and "master." Minorities have always been portrayed in the media as servants and second-class citizens and constant absorption of those images relays a message to people of color that their role within society is second to that of white people. What this comment also reveals, is that the disdain felt when seeing racial roles reversed has been felt by people of color all throughout history. Racial and power dynamics have never been in favor of the underrepresented which is exactly the change that needs to be made.

Despite the few negative comments, the initial feelings Cargle's photo series elicits, teeters between that of joyous and sadness.



Although society has come a long way in providing people of color some form of representation in the media, it has yet to be fully integrated into the physical world around us. Many women today can remember their childhood days playing with dolls that only had blonde hair and blue eyes and while there exists a wider variety of dolls from various ethnicities and races, it does not determine that the overall experience of struggling to find your own physical form of representation has diminished altogether.

For Instagram user, @hapabruha, the photograph of Asian women being pampered at the nail salon as opposed to doing the pampering, left her with mixed emotions. She shared, "I'm sad how joyful the last one made me, not because white women are the working class but because it's so rare to see a group of Asian women smiling and enjoying themselves in that context. It's always us serving them and it was so beautiful to see them happy even for just a moment I didn't even care who was scrubbing their feet."

For now, the most important thing we can do in our efforts to achieve equality, is to have an open dialogue and listen with the intent to understand.

While these photos may never give us full insight into the injustices and hardships experienced by certain racial groups, having a conversation about the emotions these images elicit, raises the curtains on a world beyond what we know. They expose how class and power among minorities directly impacts the quality of life they are "allowed" to have while living in a society that has already seemingly categorized them away. These powerful photos force us to stop and consider how we would feel and how our realities would change if the roles of overrepresented and underrepresented were reversed. For now, the most important thing we can do in our efforts to achieve equality, is to have an open dialogue and listen with the intent to understand.

This article was originally published June 16, 2019.

Time-Saving Hacks That Will Help You Focus More on Growing Your Brand

Whether it's your child or your brand, there is nothing quite like the excitement you get when you see the fruits of your efforts grow. In the face of aversion, you must remain cool-minded and adaptable to remain effective. This can be quite stressful, and every minute counts. Alone, the responsibility can be overwhelming - wouldn't it be nice if things just ran themselves sometimes? Especially those things that we do mindlessly all the time, and seem to take up most of our time?

When you start a business, you soon come to realize that in order to grow your brand, you need to be extremely organized. And to be efficiently organized, it is imperative that you master the art of managing your time. The saying 'time is money' rings true when it comes to growth. This is why we're going to provide you with helpful tips that will allow you to save time so you can focus on growing your brand.

Use the Right Tools

Technology has changed the way we conduct our business with each other. Today, more than ever before, we have access to data which gives us clearer insight and vision, as well as better tools for productivity. However, as we all know, this is all conditional to your intent. As much as a smartphone can be a tool for productivity, it can also be a fantastic source of distraction and procrastination, which is directly detrimental to said productivity. Automation is an advantage that is available to almost everyone today when it would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.

Get Connected

When a brand is still young, the team is still close-knit and there isn't too much coordination necessary when it comes to keeping up to date and on top of work. Chat groups and video calls can do, as well as simple task-managing apps. But as you grow, your workflow becomes more complex and the volume of data generated by your company will very quickly become a logistical nightmare.

Telltale signs of data overwhelming are endless excel sheets, frantic Post-it notes all around the (real or digital) office, and relying on the consumer rather than business-oriented data storage and communications solutions. These have their limits, and investing in a holistic company-wide system will not be a waste.

Work More Effectively

Your workflow can be simplified into smaller tasks which follow each other in a sequence, which can have conditional elements to it. That's where automation comes in. If you can draw it in a flowchart, you can automate it. Tasks that would have taken days can be outsourced to a machine that will not only perform but also learn in the process.

There is now a myriad of online services for freelancers which essentially give them the productivity potential of a small firm. We're now at the point where bots at https://www.hellobonsai.com/contract-templates can generate custom templates for the documents your brand needs, replacing the need for a legal consultant to intervene. You just need to know what you want to automate, and what you want to make out of it. If you create a logical process from the inception of your brand, then the automation will be seamless, as all you will need to do is add more tasks.

Be Mobile and Flexible

Most of your coworkers and clients will probably already have a smartphone, or will soon. It is also very likely that beyond using these for leisure and social activities, they use them for work. It is now normal to switch off the heating in that apartment you've been renting out while you are on holiday because your AirBNB tenants are overusing it. Or to track the status of your latest food delivery while you are sitting on the toilet.

Consumers today are not only constantly on the move, but they are also increasingly data-focused. They will be looking for results and have the capabilities they need to research, analyze, and calculate what they deem necessary to ensure they will be making the right decision. They thus also expect the same in return, in the form of bespoke customer service that is both intelligent and responsive.


Data is everywhere and is relatively easy to obtain. In a single click, you can generate a web analysis that will reveal more information about your blog or website than your doctor will ever tell you about your own body. Before diving into this ocean of data, take time to identify what is really important to you. Brainstorming is a great tool to really identify and prioritize what you and your team should be focusing on first. If you try to wage war on all fronts, then the chances of winning are slim.

With the right tools and the right method, you can save yourself quite a considerable amount of time. With both the agility and flexibility that data managing and automation software brings to the table, you will see an increase in your productivity. Careful planning is key, and if you focus on streamlining your workflow, you will be able to take your brand to the next level.