If you managed to miss the awesome piece on CNN about diversity earlier today then you should really go check it out. There are some great points brought up, and some really important things I agree with (like not every diverse book has to be about a person’s diversity, not every book needs to be a Message book).
And so I read the article, and I was pretty happy. Yeah, diversity!
But then I read the comments.
Dammit. I read the comments.
The first comment was something along the lines of “I have a black person as a role model, why can’t black people just have white people as role models? Why do black people need black role models?”
First of all, the article talks about ALL kinds of diversity, not just more black characters in books. But somehow, when a discussion revolves around race we have to boil it down to black and white. Of course.
But beyond that, the sentiment that black people should read white characters and be happy with a few secondary characters tossed to them like scraps is such BULLSHIT. Because what you’re really saying is: my truth should be enough for you. I’m the star, you’re the back up dancer. Get over it.
The problem with this is it acts like the quest for diversity is a zero sum argument: you’re either for white people or against them. No one is saying “STOP WRITING WHITE CHARACTERS!” No, what people are saying is “How about everyone gets a turn on the swings? Huh? Can we make that happen?”
But let’s take race out of the equation, because race is a social construct and like most products of society it has a whole host of issues that come along with it.
Let’s talk instead about chicken wings.
I love chicken wings. I could live off of chicken wings. Wing night is hands down my favorite night of the week. I JUST ate myself sick on some awesome wings from my second favorite local establishment. Chicken wings rock.
But sometimes, I want salad. Because lettuce is good for me, and heart disease is a real thing. So, on some nights I get a salad.
Now, imagine I go into my favorite wing place and they say “Nope, no salad. Just chicken wings. I mean, we have this dish of coleslaw if you’re really hard up for vegetables.”
But I want a salad, not coleslaw, not chicken wings. So I leave, and the other place in my neighborhood tells me the same thing. In fact, all of the restaurants in all of the world no longer serve salad. All they serve are chicken wings. Buffalo style, teriyaki style, dozens of kinds of chicken wings, but NOTHING but chicken wings.
That would pretty awful, wouldn’t it? Because sometimes you want a salad, and some times you want a hamburger, and diversity isn’t about telling everyone that now they have to eat salad, it’s about choices. It’s about having salad available when you want a salad, because all you eat the rest of the week is chicken wings.
Let’s cut the bullshit and add some variety to the menu. If you want to eat nothing but chicken wings, knock yourself out. But the rest of us are ready for some salad. Stop making this about salad eaters being closed-minded, because we’re not.
We’ve been eating chicken wings for years.
Diversity is not about kicking white people off of the playground. It’s about finally giving everyone else a chance to play.
Bold is my emphasis because it’s a great way to really visualize the diversity issue.