We’ve all seen the #weneeddiversebooks. At least, I hope you’ve all seen it. The number one reason I believe that this is a critical movement is this:
Young people need to see themselves, and people not like themselves, represented in all kinds of media, but especially books, because doing so will facilitate better, more effective communication between people. This one, seemingly simple, but for some reason has been difficult task, would curb racist ideologies and bigoted behavior based on race or ethnicity. The ability to see ourselves in other people opens our hearts. We become more compassionate, more empathetic people.
A few months ago, a newly elected Nebraska State Board of Education official was outed because his conservative blog included racist, bigoted language. He swore the articles weren’t his; They were a contributor’s (This isn’t something that’s been proved either way.) After more than one article was discovered, and it became clear to this man that the problem wasn’t going away, he took down his blog. Thousands of Nebraskans began speaking out against this man making it clear that he needed to be removed. Removal isn’t an option. In Nebraska, a member of the board of education can’t be recalled. While pressure continues for him to resign, he refuses, saying that he can do his job.
Really? How does a person do their job fairly, and without racial or ethnic bias, and simultaneously allow a contributor to his blog, to post racist ideologies and bigoted language?
Most of you reading this have your own blogs. And, like me, you probably believe that your blog is an extension of you, your thoughts, your ideologies, your passions — you get the idea. So, this man never (until outed) disavowed anything the contributor wrote. To me, that means that as the founder and editor of the blog, the contributor’s articles were in alignment with this man’s ideologies.
You can follow the issue here.
What does this have to do with #weneeddiversebooks? Everything. We can’t have people in charge of our boards of education who 1) can’t acknowledge their racial/ethnic biases, or 2) show an ability to challenge themselves by working past those biases. (Everyone has biases, but some are more detrimental than others, when a person has the right platform.)
I believe people can change. Members of my family certainly did when they began accepting my father, and I’ve met countless others who’ve overcome their racial/ethnic biases after increased exposure to positive portrayals of POC in media, through work, church, or other groups.
What we see and read matters.
I’m going to leave you with this from John Stewart. It sums up what many POC, and some allies, already know, and understand, but that many others just either don’t get, or don’t want to get.
Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, and Publishing, Buzzfeed, 2014