Thursday, November 27, 2014

Diversity, Identity, and Self-Worth

Why do people make such a big deal about diversity? Why is it so important that a protagonist in a movie or novel be black?  What does it matter if there are no Native-American themed dramas on television? I would argue that there is a strong correlation between diverse content, identity, and self-worth. What I mean is that it is, it is imperative for children of color to see and read about strong characters that they can identity with. Characters that give them a sense of identity, expand their dreams, and increase their self-worth. What do I have to bolster my argument?  How about a few images...
I can't think of an image more powerful than the first family on this night, Election Day 2008. Close your eyes and imagine this image through the eyes of a child of color. Keep your eyes closed and imagine the possibilities that same child of color is dreaming about after seeing this. It was an incredible moment and will be forever etched in my memory.

Space. The final frontier. My wife is an AKA and has, on occasion, reminded me, "We got sorors in outer space!" Can't argue with that. This picture expands the dreams of millions of young girls just as much as it creates a pathway to make those dreams a reality. What American is not proud of the accomplishments of Mae Jemison? Her journey to the stars was a historical achievement, but her journey to the hearts and minds of children is what their dreams are made of.

Is there another image that contains as much power, grace, and beauty as this one? Don't discourage children with your perceived limitations because YOU lack imagination. Challenge them. Thanks to Misty Copeland, how many girls want to be ballerinas today? I don't have an answer for that, but I bet it's more than before Ms. Copeland arrived on the scene. Ya' feel me?

And what about novels? If these images can have a positive affect, would not words be just as, if not more, powerful? And if novels are about expanding the dreams of our children, then let them dream of being heroes. But where are our heroes? Where is our black Harry Potter? Our Latina Katniss? If, like my wife says, "We got sorors in outer space!" then can we not have minority heroes between pages? Well, we can and we do but you won't find these books being produced by traditional publishing houses. You have to look at self-published titles for diverse books that mirror the real world. And if you want more than "Fund the change you want to see" stop demanding that authors like JK Rowling include more diverse characters in their works. It's not fair to Mrs. Rowling or conducive to the creative process. And if, like me, you believe diversity, identity and self-worth are related and matter then show the courage of your convictions and let us hear your voice. What say you?