I remember reading a quote from Whoopi Goldberg where she talked about Nichelle Nichols's role as Uhura on Star Trek: "When I was nine years old, Star Trek came on. I looked at it and went screaming through the house, 'Come here, Mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there's a black lady on TV, and she ain't no maid!' I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be." And when I was younger, my mother would braid my hair while we watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I watched Whoopi play Guinan on the show, and the influence continued. Watching Whoopi and Nichelle in these roles showed me that the entertainment world and even intergalactic worlds are available to me because these women boldly went where no black woman had gone before.
Of course, not everyone needs to see their likeness in a particular position in order to reach it. Viola Davis won an Emmy for lead actress in a drama, and she was the first black woman to achieve that in the 67 years the Emmys have existed. She also just won a Screen Actors Guild award and gave a wonderful response to a reporter asking about #OscarsSoWhite by saying "Diversity is not a trending topic." Unfortunately, I read about her statement in an article titled something like "Diversity Wins SAG Awards," so it seems the topic is still trending. There were a lot of articles like that. Diversity Reigns at SAG Awards, Plenty of Diversity at SAG. I even saw one that said Diversity Makes a Comeback. What?? Where did it go? I think people are getting confused by the word diversity. Diversity didn't win a SAG award, a bunch of talented actors did.
I don't know when this started happening, but some people are using the word diversity to mean "anyone but white people," and that's not what it actually means. If I want to put a diverse group (of anything) together, I would put together a spectrum of varying things. So if we're talking racially (and we always are), that can include white people. Like, a bag of M&M's is diverse, because they have a bunch of colors in the bag, and I'm assuming each color is evenly distributed (I've never counted the different colors in a bag of M&M's, but I'd like to think it's a good representation of a utopian society). If I opened up a bag of M&M's and it was mostly full of green M&M's and only a handful of blue and orange M&M's were sprinkled throughout, this would not be a diverse bag, and I would think, Whoever put this bag together is really obsessed with green M&M's.
Diversity isn't something that just happens to appear every once in a while. It's not going to surprise you on your birthday like, "Oh, I didn't know diversity would be here! How fun!" It's the act of inclusion, and it's something that needs to be improved upon in so many fields. But it is getting better. People are working on it, and I appreciate it. I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I teared up a lot, for many reasons, but a big one is the two main characters of the film are a woman and a black man. And there were no winks to the camera like "Rey is strong for a girl" or any mentions of Finn's race. They were just two full characters on a journey together. They both showed a wide range of emotions, and I got a true sense of their personalities and histories. I love that and want more of it.
Hopefully we'll get to a point where we can stop trying to "diversify" jobs and people will just hire qualified people who happen to have different backgrounds, and we won't even have to focus on it because that's just how people think. But we're not there yet, and it's something we still have to work on. So I want to lay out some guidelines we can use to keep each other accountable. If I walked out of the house with a crazy-looking outfit, I would want someone to tell me. If I cast a film that wasn't utilizing as many diverse voices as it could, I would want someone to tell me. I hope other people feel the same way.