In the present day, we hear a lot of talk about diversity. Diversity has been mentioned everywhere, whether in TV shows, movies or books — it’s a topic that can’t be ignored. So, what’s the big deal about it? In this day and age of social justice, people demand diverse representation more than ever before, but is it really helping those who claim to be misrepresented? We have to look at how diversity can be helpful but also harmful if not implemented properly.
Diversity is preached about all the time on college campuses. Campuses across the country have missions to be as diverse and inclusive as possible. Stony Brook is, of course, joining that mission with the university’s yearly Diversity Town Hall, Diversity Day and other events that promote the idea of diversity. The idea of spreading cultures, other than American, is not a bad idea, but I feel there is something missing from this whole diversity thing. When I was looking up student affinity groups, I found clubs like African Student Union (ASU), Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), Autism Awareness Club (AAC) and many more. When looking further into these groups, I found that there were only two groups that represented European culture — French Alliance Stony Brook and CIAO Cultural Italian American Organization, and no men’s groups. If Stony Brook really cares about diversity, then we should hear more about European culture. Contrary to what you may have heard from academia and the media, white people and men are not free from hardship. When both groups express their hardships to others, they’re often brushed off as complaining and are told they should check their “privilege.” I’m not trying to say that the affinity groups I stated above shouldn’t exist — they have every right to — but if we really care about diversity then I want to hear more talk about men’s issues and more groups that focus on European culture.
Diversity isn’t a bad concept in itself, but when it starts to become more of a demand, then it causes major problems. Take for example Marvel, the comic book company. The new characters introduced into the universe, like America Chavez and Riri Williams, are examples of diversity done wrong. Riri Williams is a very intelligent African-American female who is Tony Stark’s replacement, and America Chavez is supposed to be a fierce Latina who fights for social justice and is also a lesbian. This may sound like a diversity win, but it really isn’t. The way Williams and Chavez are written is rather cringe worthy. In the first issue of the comic, before the story even starts, America is described as a “super strong queer brown girl.” Now is that really necessary to describe a main protagonist of a comic? Her motivations, personality, whether she is good or evil and her ability to fight well should be included since this gives the character depth. The same could be said about Riri Williams. Williams is just a product of laziness, not creativity, and is written as a Mary Sue. She is a poorly written female character who is free of flaws and in some cases, can be a self insert of the author (a male version of this is called a Gary Stu or Marty Sue). Having a tragic backstory, being highly intelligent and being loved by everyone around her, she is more of a fantasy rather than a well-written character. If you like and enjoy these characters, then more power to you, but I feel that both Chavez and Williams were written rather poorly and are bad examples of diversity.
I think people push for diversity because they want to be represented and have role models for themselves and future generations. I get that you want to see your race, gender, sexual orientation, or culture represented in the media accurately, but the thing is, no one is portrayed accurately in the media, not even men or white people. You don’t need people to look or act like you. I’m a huge fan of Rooster Teeth’s RWBY. I wear the shirts, I have a pair of their leggings, I have four mystery figures and plushies and I have a FIRST membership to watch episodes when they premiere. The four titular characters of the show, Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang, are female but are not people of color. Out of the four, Weiss Schnee is my favorite. If you look at Weiss, she has white hair, blue eyes, pale skin and looks nothing like me. I have brown-black hair, brown eyes and dark skin. Even though Weiss looks nothing like me, that doesn’t stop me from having her as a wallpaper on my laptop and phone and from cosplaying as her at New York Comic Con.
Certain people go through a mental checklist to see if they’re being represented properly. Are there enough women, people of color, LGBT, etc.? Having this mental checklist isn’t a good idea because if you need to have a character who looks like you, then you’re depending on the media too much. If you want to have yourself represented in the media, put your mind to work and create! It takes zero dollars to put pen to paper or a finger to a keyboard to create characters. Make sure that the character you create has depth and that their identity isn’t their only trait. In the words of George R.R. Martin, “Art is not a democracy, people don’t get to vote on how it ends.”