Diversity in Books

Yeah. We need it. Period.

No matter the intonation of the previous sentence, the point stands.

It’s an global issue that touches many realms, but let me focus solely on the Wattpad world.

  • “We don’t need to mention the race of the character”
  • “It’s not important”
  • “I’m afraid to include it”
  • “I don’t know anything outside of what I know”

Those are just a handful of the excuses that are the problem. Why? Ask yourself why? If this issue doesn’t resonate with you, then the next time you crack open a story… exclude the cover image, exclude the description/blurb, exclude the genre, exclude the character describing their skin… and ask yourself, what you thought the ethnicity of the character was by default.

This is the goal. To change the default. This world is more than what we we see and there are stories from different cultures, classes, religions, ethnicities, genders, etc. that we should know about. Why? Because these people are real. They have stories to tell too.

Hey, yeah I understand that you typically write what you’re most comfortable with. But this is a conversation to those who don’t think including the race of characters are important. 

Are you sure it’s not? Do we remember the reaction to Rue’s representation in the “Hunger Games”? 

I’m Black, and it is very easy for me to go into a discussion dissecting the issues of representation of Black people.

  • Eg: Idris Elba… isn’t African American.

However, when the discussion of race– in America– comes up, most folks like to assume Black people vs. White people. Umm, where are the Latinos, Asians, folks from the Middle East, Native Americans, Islanders How many Asian characters do we see on TV? And since it’s Oscar season how many Asian actors do we see winning? Ask yourself these questions.

Think about how these productions come into play? Where do a majority of these ideas come from?

Answer: Writers.

If people don’t intend to write with a diverse cast, they won’t. Whether the “comfortable” writers and readers want to acknowledge this, people of color (POC) are like ghosts in most spaces.

You can sense or feel that they are there, it can make you curious or uncomfortable, but you don’t see them.

Yes, more attention is coming to POC for the spotlight, but what people need to understand about the lack of diversity is that it is a real problem.

Best solution: Produce work with diversity. 

  • Put these characters out into the waves!
  • Research!
  • Ask!
  • Teach!

Be the change you want to see. 

Diversity exists, but in order for it to be respected, we have to represent it with pride.

Not all Black characters are ghetto. Not all Asian people are good a math. Not all Latino people are illegal. Not all White people are ignorant. Not all Native Americans are on a ‘quest’. Not all Middle Eastern are Musli, etc.

Yet, because the world is full of so many people, the likelihood that you will find someone of that race associated with that stereotype could hold true– just remove “Not all” and add “can be” in place of “are”. In fact, mix up the races with these assumptions and see if they don’t apply to different races. The world is so intertwined that it’s complicated, but unfamiliarity brews fear, othering, and… TYPECASTING.

We’re all on the Internet, there are forums and testimonials that are a testament to people’s true and everyday experiences. I’m not South Asian/Middle Eastern, but my old roommate still chose to openly share her Pakistani culture with me when we were in college. What I absorbed was only the tip of the iceberg, but because it’s not my culture or know more about it, I can’t include a character that doesn’t come from this background?

Now, let me clear that last question up. That does not give me license to include any character I want, emphasize their background/race/culture, and just write whatever the hell I want. Stereotypes, racism, and bigotry can still be done even when trying to be diverse. Usually when that happens, the writer is trying to be diverse for the sake of being diverse.

Diversity shouldn’t be the trend, it should be the norm because the real world is just as colorful as our imagination.

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