The every day person has wanted more diverse characters for a while now. Now that the recent publishing industry push for more diverse characters has finally faded, I feel like I can speak up without gaining undue attention from people who are just jumping on the bandwagon and don’t really understand my perspective.
I grew up in the middle of New Jersey, outside one of the cities. The result of my upbringing is that I was exposed to pretty much everyone. When I am in a group that is a bit too homogenized I feel uncomfortable. Pretty much what I’m saying is I grew up in a place where diversity was common place. It wasn’t until I left my oasis of multiculturalism that I realized that things weren’t always like that. My eyes opened and I started to see the importance of melding the divide. I was lucky. Now, I’m not deluded, where I grew up wasn’t perfect. When I was in elementary school I was made fun of for being Medusa because I wore my hair in braids. But my town never felt restricting, and I’d dare to say that made it feel unique in many ways that other people can’t say about their towns. Yes, minorities hung out with their own as there is a sense of camaraderie that forms when you hang out with people who potentially share similar home cultures, but minorities mixed a lot. People were able to hang out together. And while there may have been some tension, most of it was not solely based on a person’s race or religion, or any other factor that set them apart. That gave me my own sort of personal bubble that was shattered when I learned that most environments weren’t like that. I learned that acceptance wasn’t as prominent and that my town may have been more of an anomaly than anything. What I have noticed that as more people have flocked in from all over I’ve noticed the tension rise as new comers brought in more preconceived notions that we didn’t necessarily have previously and it became more ingrained in society.
What I want in diversity
Now, everyone seems to want something different when it comes to diversity in books, and that is something to be celebrated as that is what diverse is after all. Personally, I look for a world view that is similar to mine. And I get thrilled when I see it as a character that is a minority being represented as the primary protagonist. I’m fascinated with seeing minorities on the forefront. I want to see various cultures portrayed with dignity.
What I do to contribute to diversity
I have my own unique perspective as does everyone. I was one internship away from having enough classes to be an Africana Studies major. I took multiple classes that focused on Chinese Art and history. I am compelled and draw to other cultures. I want to learn and know more, as well as immerse myself in them. But the best experience I have is my own. I can draw my from experiences and relationships as a minority woman and implement my outlook on the world in my work. I still may not have made it quite clear what I do exactly in the pieces I write. I create characters that are minorities. To date, all my protagonists have been black. Many of my other characters have been other minorities, but I’m never exclusive of any race. I write characters that live in a world similar to the experience I grew up in. Thus, I write characters of color that may face issues with race on occasion, but it is far from the driving force of their lives. That may change over time, but for now I’m most interested in showing that the world can be diverse without as much controversy that is is truly there.
What do you think of when people call the ever vague word diverse into play?