“People are people and each person comes with their own unique story.” – Lisa Kraft
I was fortunate enough to attend the Writers for Diversity session at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. The founder Eliana West runs the Facebook group Writers for Diversity. She is one of those miraculous leaders who saw a need and rose to the challenge. She runs Writers for Diversity as a closed safe group where one can have respectful conversations about all types of diversity.
I thought my quote above covered all I needed to know about diversity and acceptance. I found myself more naïve and ignorant than I ever expected.
While my belief is true, there are so many other factors I had never considered. People are also their culture, history, and the unique challenges that come with membership in non-mainstream groups.
Writers for Diversity is about all non-mainstream groups: ethnic, handicaps, self-identifications, culture … and many more. I, as an Accessible CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Team) instructor, have worked with wonderful people with many different self-determined handicaps. For Redmond, Washington CERT there is no separate, but equal classes. We accommodate everyone as much as our budget allows. The caveat is that translators are expensive so we can only offer full accommodation every three years.
I would feel horrible about that, but I took my Train-the-Trainer class with many of those from the first accessible class and these incredible individuals have taken the curriculum back to their own. If I guest teach at any of these CERT programs, then I’m the one who needs an interpreter.
For writers who are writing diverse characters, spend sometime thinking about your character and what they bring to your story. Simply changing the race of your character to fulfill a diversity quota, is like splashing new paint a wall. No matter what color you paint it, it’s still the same wall.
Your character should be relevant by the culture they bring. The unique challenges they may face. They should add a richness of who they are based on culture, history and location. If you can change their color at will, then you need to go back to the drawing board.
Another issue that often comes up in writing is writers asking the token minorities they see to tell them everything about the race or non-mainstream lifestyles they want to represent. See paragraph above about when and why you should writer diverse characters. Ask yourself if you can represent everyone in any group you belong to. (And yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition, but to write “to any group to which you belong” certainly sounded incorrect and pompous in a blog such as mine)
This is perhaps the longest post I have ever written and I have barely scratched the surface. Stay tuned for more Wednesday Writes in which I will dive deeper in the diversity of issues.
Join me on this journey of discovery and send your own questions and issues you see. I will try to address each one I receive.