People from different backgrounds, ages and gender holding hands. A study found that films that cast more people of color had higher median global box office returns. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Let’s get one thing out of the way. When many of us use the term “diversity,” what we really mean is “reality.” Diversity both in front of and behind the screen, pen and computer is important and does matter, because it is not realistic to have a New York City filled with only white people or to go to work and only interact with straight, cis people. It is also not realistic to expect a straight, white man to accurately write a black, queer or female character. People are the experts on their own experiences, so providing opportunities for marginalized groups to create content is paramount to changing the status quos of many industries.

Some people might counter with the argument that if people want to be represented, they can create their own representation. However, that completely ignores the systemic barriers to anyone who isn’t a white, straight man. For example, marginalized groups are given significantly less funding and opportunities to produce movies, plays art and books. It might not cost anything to write a script or draw a comic book, but in order to commit enough time to it so it might have a chance to become known, a certain level of financial security is needed. People who might not be able to devote the time (for financial and employment reasons) are denied the opportunity afforded to other, less marginalized groups.

To those who say that the push for diversity may be harmful, I agree. If your “diversity” is on the surface only, it can be reduced to a “token” marginalized person, or if you are using it solely to increase your profits or your credibility, then it is most definitely harmful. Additionally, if your attempts at diversity do not take into account and seek to rectify the institutional oppression, systemic barriers and economic disenfranchisement that many marginalized groups face, it is just as (if not more) harmful. But if your argument is in defense of the status quo, if you feel diversity is harmful and unnecessary because it takes attention, time and funds away from groups who have been historically privileged, centered and considered the default (white, cis, straight men), then I can say with all certainty that I do not agree with you. I would want you to ask yourself why you think this way. Why is it a bad thing that groups that have been catered to for so long are no longer catered to with the same intensity? What is the harm in shifting the focus? There is little risk of these groups becoming marginalized. “Black Panther” isn’t going to cause white people any harm. We all survived having a black stormtrooper and a woman Jedi. We’ll find a way to make it through this, too.

There are some people who are wary of Hollywood’s (and other industries’) push for diversity. I am one of them. Surface level attempts at diversity, that focus on on-screen (or page) characters without allowing for the same diversity behind the scenes is not a step forward. When people from non-marginalized groups write or create the stories of marginalized groups, something is always missing, may it be nuance, authenticity, empathy, understanding. For example, the history of white people writing and directing movies about black people has been littered with racism, white saviorism, an over-representation of tragedy and black pain and cringe-worthy “color-blind” morals.

The adage “you can’t be what you can’t see” is wrong. Marginalized people have been what they have been told they could never be throughout history. However, this saying still has resonance. There are some children who grow up without having to think about whether they can follow their passions and achieve their dreams. However, there are countless other kids who grow up not knowing if it will be possible to pursue their goals. There are also countless children who are actively discouraged, be it due to cultural expectations, societal barriers and even the school-to-prison pipeline. If art, literature and media showed traditionally marginalized and oppressed groups in all aspects of life and society, living as whole individuals, and if these groups have the opportunities to write, draw, film, speak and direct their stories, it may just become normalized to the point where we don’t see it as “diversity” anymore — we see it as real life.

Tagged:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.