Don't shoot me yet; I have a point I want to make.
So, as an African American female and an advocate of writing highly diverse books, I have run in to something that is annoying me a great deal. And that is what people are actually thinking when they think of diversity in books/film. Or rather - what people are actually seeing. This first occurred to me when someone asked me why none of the people on my covers (thus far) were Black. And I said because the design didn't call for it. Because it didn't. The main character, who I chose to portray on the cover, was not Black. And this seemed to have stricken a nerve with her, beacuase I'm Black. We were Black. Like it translated into me being ashamed of being Black or something. Even though there are a number of characters (main and side) in the story that are black - as well as other nationalities and ethnicities.
And this got me thinking (and annoyed). How are people actually looking at diversity in books/films? There can only be so many main characters and so many of them portrayed on a cover. Not every one is going to be a minority. And what's more, just because it's a white face, doesn't mean it's the same ethnicity every time. There are British, French, Russian, Irish, Polish, German, Scottish, Norwegian (you get my point) that all happen to generally share the same skin tone. Are they less entitled to a shot at being featured because they are white? I'm asking: Are people actually looking at diversity? Or are they still just looking at skin tone? Just because there are multiple white faces on the covers of books/movies, does not mean they all come from the same background, or share the same culture. It does not mean they are not diverse.
That being said, I am fully aware that actual lack of diversity in books/films is actually a thing. And I'm not saying it's not. Minorities are still hilariously outnumbered when it comes to be portrayed in one or both of those categories - as main characters. And I understand where the anger comes from, because I feel it too. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to overlook the fact that I feel diversity is being looked at in the wrong way. I would of course love to see more Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, etc. portrayed in both forms. But I'm not going to shame a book or film just because a white face is on the cover.
What also gets to me, is that I feel Black (and minority) writers/producers may be going about things the wrong way in trying to get Blacks and minorities their "shot". If you look at the majority of what they produce, they're saturated with minority actors/characters. And while it's nice to see them in action, it's also not really feeding into your fight for diverse film. You're really just sort of breaking away and segregating yourselves into your own film genre. And while it's nice to be proud of having your own and owning it, it wasn't the end goal. The point in fighting for diverse books/films is to have them be diverse - not a rebellion. You want to aim for ethnicities not being stereotyped. You want to have people see a minority main character in a genre like scifi or fantasy and have them totally kicking ass with a nonstereotype personality - or heck, even with one! Not have the audience look at it and say "Why are they doing that? They don't do that kind of thing". What does that even mean?! The point of diversity is to have everyone be able to play any type of role without judgement or automatic stereotypes. They'll always exist, I'm aware, but we can do more to make the literary field a little more accepting of what role they find someone in, regardless of their background.
But again. A white face does not equal lack of diversity. The conscious refusal to consider other groups, however, does.
Agree? Disagree? Comment and/or tweet me your thoughts @AuthorJaz. Use the hashtag #DiverseTalk