"As a novelist, my job is to try to inhabit people of any culture,
to be a person of another sex, or another race, or another
ethnic group. I think it helps me to understand them,
and it helps the reader to understand them, too."
INNER CITY STORIES
I think and know that greater diversity and greater representation is needed in the media. Many kids feel as if there is something wrong with them because they don't look the way that every “normal” kid looks on TV and in movies. It makes me feel so bad to know that young kids are embarrassed about themselves because they don’t fit exactly into the model that the media creates.
I don’t know if I’ll tell this correctly but I remember this one article or post that a waitress wrote about this one kid with hearing aids who was in the restaurant with his family. The waitress came up to wait on their table and saw that this child had toys from the Marvel comics, Avengers, and was playing with them. This waitress also noticed that this young boy was wearing hearing aids. Not that this was something abnormal, but the waitress got excited because she could now tell the boy something about one of the Avengers. She asked him if he knew the character “Hawkeye” in some of the original comics, who was 80% deaf and also used hearing aids. Not only did this boy get excited, but the whole family did. The dad said that he’d buy the comics as soon as he could. This post made me content because now this kid had a superhero that has the same disability that he has. I think it’s important for kids with disabilities to get the representation that they deserve.
There are many kids who love reading books, and so having diversity in the YA novels that they read is important. Almost every YA novel that I’ve read has this cis white girl falling in love with this cis white boy and that’s it. I didn’t even notice it at first because it didn’t seem like anything that was abnormal to me. Until I realized that that was the only thing that I was seeing. When there is representation in books for people of color, they are secondary characters who the main white character tries to befriend and it ends up going badly for him (or her). I at first included “her” in that sentence until I remembered that these books don’t include girls in that way either.
In school, it is important to have diversity starting from a young age because then their children’s mindset towards other cultures and people is not narrow but instead open and growing. Even if it is not possible for there to be diversity, teachers and the curriculum should teach students not to be so narrow-minded about people who are different. I know many people that grew up in a school system where they didn’t see people different than themselves and I overhear them making racist or homophobic remarks and none of their friends say anything about it. And when someone would call them out they just say, “Oh, I wasn’t being racist,” or “Oh, I’m just saying it as a joke,” because they haven’t been taught to know what is offensive to other cultures, heritages, and countries.
We see numerous blockbuster films today in the industry and so many TV shows that have the same diversity in characters, which is none. Think of the past five movies you watched in the cinema and count how many of them included a white male lead. Of course now there are some shows which have cast POC where they would usually cast white actors. I know the excuse that many casting directors make -- that their white counterpart “was just better” and “is a better actor/actress,” but how different can skills be when so many people audition? This just shows a pattern. But then again, diversity pertains not only to differences in skin color. How many times have you seen a character in a TV show with hearing aids? I literally cannot even think of one time I saw that. If kids were to see people with disabilities on television on a regular basis (or even if a couple shows included this) then kids would not be so shocked to see someone like that in reality and would not think of it as anything abnormal. Then those kids that do have to carry something that is different like an insulin pump or a back brace wouldn’t be so scared to go out in public and might even show off that they have something like that.
I saw many positive comments for this advertisement that the American Girl Doll company put out. It was an ad that included a girl in a wheelchair, one with a prosthetic, and one with a hearing aid. I love the fact that American Girl has one of the most inclusive and diverse selections of dolls today. They have made all of their dolls accessorized; I find this so important because now young girls can choose things for their dolls that they also wear or carry themselves, and have a mini-them to help reassure themselves that they’re not in this situation alone.
Using diversity in marketing as a tool is important. People like to see people similar to themselves so being diverse is the first step to bringing out the whole crowd to the party. Think of it logically, if you had the chance to present your product or service to a wider range of people than just a few, why wouldn’t you want to take that opportunity? I’m pretty sure that some promoters would say something like, “I just don’t know how to include that so I won’t do it”. But how hard is it to just talk to people and ask what would be an offensive thing to say and what is acceptable to do? Literally, the worst thing you can do in an advertisement is offend a whole group of people by making an ableist joke. Imagine having to use a wheelchair everyday just to be able to go places and this store that you’ve been wanting to go to just put out an ad that says, “We’ve included ramps in our store at the following locations for all you lazy kids who just don’t want to move your legs.” I would be so confused, because I wouldn’t know if the store made that offensive comment on purpose or if they were just trying to make a joke. Like I seriously cannot use my legs and you would have the nerve to make a joke about that?
Once again, having knowledge about diversity is so important because it gives you keys to knowing how to interact with many different people. If I did not have access to getting to know other people that are different and finding out information on other cultures then I don’t know where I’d be. Probably writing an essay on how I think the world/society is perfect the way it is now. (Which it isn’t).