Dear Corporate America, Hollywood, and the Media,
I’m at an intersection, more of a crossroads. I am a black woman working in corporate Hollywood. I occupy a space where diversity is a huge issue, in both corporate America and in Hollywood. For the sake of this essay, I’m focusing on diversity within communities of color. I’m not negating the issues of the LGBTQ, disabled, or any other community that feels disenfranchised, I just believe these communities have an edge of privilege when their spokesperson is a white person. It’s the year 2018 and America isn’t fully honoring all of the policies that “Make America Great.” A little history lesson, 54 years ago, there was legislation passed that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin by federal and state governments as well as some public places. SOME?! We’ll get to that issue later, I’m sure it was solved.
The point is, constitutionally, every citizen in the United States should have access to the same things, including opportunities to improve livelihood. A diverse set of people of color, should be represented in all spaces whether that is in the media, in film/tv, or in the boardroom.
So if we’ve constitutionally allowed people to occupy the same spaces as white people? Why in 2018 do we still have a major problem with diversity?
Unconscious bias for one. Why do you see my color and/or gender and think less of me? Because systematically, I’ve been allowed to learn for less years than a white male -- I don’t have the experience or know how. [Or so you thought by my physical appearance] How can you discount my innate ability, my intelligence, my nurturing, my unseen privileges?
I’ve noticed in the workplace, people of color are sent to diversity events. It’s senseless. People of color know the issues and why it’s important to have a diverse space. White people need education and understanding because without learning why diversity is important, it becomes curated and forced. Diversity isn’t just a number, it’s a belief system reflected through not only hiring but through incorporating the thoughts and experiences. Diversity comes from the top and it must be a genuine and intentional effort. Industries must understand the WHY behind diversity.
It’s beyond the dollar. I’m not buying your product just because you have a person of color [You know that phrase, the token black] as your spokesperson, either at the C-level or a celebrity/ influencer you think resonates with me. The WHY of diversity is knowing the issues, interest, and culture of a group and aligning your product, mission, and ideology with them. You can have a POC, or maybe 2 on your team - even on your Board, but remember groupthink is real and if that POC doesn’t have the power to speak and make decisions their presence is in vain.
Nikole Hannah Jones introduced me to the concept of curated diversity. The perfect example of curated diversity is set of a set of 20 people in a meeting, you call it diversity because the room includes an asian, a person of the LBGTQ community, a white women, among the sea of white men. In a "better" example, you add a black woman or Latina. The problem with curated diversity is that it still reflects groupthink -- yes, I have a different physical background but I’m safe enough not to challenge the status quo.
More on this to come.