Ok guys can we have a chat about coding?
Coding is when characteristics of certain people/groups are applied to entities in media, oftentimes nonhuman characters. This is often a sort of subtle allegory to make a point or present a counterpart in a fantasy setting. Sometimes it takes the form of “monster culture,” where these stereotypical characteristics are applied to villains to demonize certain groups (you see this a lot with villains who take on stereotypical traits of marginalized groups such as LGBT people, or Jewish people for example). Sometimes it’s simply allegory.
Let’s look at these images as examples. Garnet is an alien with brown skin, an afro, and voiced by black english singer Estelle. So, it’s clear to see she’s coded as a black woman in spite of being an alien. The picture next to that is from the PBS kids show Arthur, portraying two characters in Senegal. They’re clearly animals, but they’re also Senegalese, so it can be inferred they’re coded as black Africans. They are relatives of another character on the show, The Brain, who is a bear. But in the show, he has family in Africa, and celebrates kwanzaa. It can be inferred he’s black as well.
Then Sagwa. This is about a family of siamese cats who lives in China sometime around the era of the Qing dynasty (I believe). They work for a magistrate and make calligraphy with their tails. They’re cats, but are coded by their environment and characterization as being Chinese.
And the list goes on (The Between the Lions lions being African, Rosita and Quetzal being Mexican, etc)
So there’s a problem when you see a character like Garnet and go “she’s not black, she’s a gem!” Sure, in a literal sense. But she’s clearly CODED as a black woman.
This ALSO plays into why you can’t arbitrarily assign certain coding to certain things and not take context and connotations into account.
I hope this made sense.