Monday, February 22, 2016

Social Media and Social Change

Let's be honest here for a minute. I've seen a lot of discussions lately on various forms of social media about representation of minorities in children's literature. I think it's amazing that people are coming together and bringing these issues to light. We can't change the current culture if we remain silent. That said, as a member of some minorities and not others, I still often feel like I'm in a lose-lose situation, even in cases where I am the minority. I feel stuck, like I can't win when it comes to discussing and representing diversity in literature. Not that it's a competition, but that it's so hard to gain any ground.

I 100% agree that there isn't enough representation of a variety of scenarios that we see around the world. But sometimes it seems that if you don't try to include representation you are ignoring the world's current state. And if you do include diversity, there is always someone who has a situation that doesn't agree with your representation of said character or situation. Darned if you do and darned if you don't.

So what are we as writers to do when it comes to changing the culture of diversity?

Research
First and foremost like any other topic, do your homework. You wouldn't write a novel about the Spanish Civil War if you knew nothing about it. Same goes for minorities. Take the time to research what it's like, the struggles those groups have gone through and the triumphs they've made. And then talk to people who represent those groups. Lots of people. No two people's experiences are the same. While sometimes you will find trends and similarities that may not always be the case. So make sure you get members of those minorities to proof your stuff. Get their perspective. But like any other critiques realize this isn't a one size fits all scenario.

Be Respectful
We are all human, we all make mistakes. If you see an error or something offensive, don't just fly off the handle and gang up on someone. It might be an honest mistake. Politely engage and discuss the situation. We are all here to learn and do better. The old adage you can catch more flies with honey applies here. Honest discussions can be tough, and locking down emotions can be hard as everyone is entitled to their feelings, but I've found a quick, hey did you realize this might offend people in this group goes a lot further than hey jerkwad. A lot of times people don't even realize what they said was offensive and bringing it to light gets the problem corrected quickly and prevents future issues from that person.

Listen
Just as we should be respectful when approaching others with issues, we need to listen when people tell us something is a problem. It's hard to understand the situations that each unique person has gone through. We couldn't have possibly experienced them all. So when dealing with minorities that's often our time to shut up, listen, and try to understand what it's like to walk in their shoes.

Keep Talking
Have honest discussions and chats. Bring issues and information to light. Challenge those unconscious biases. We all have them, myself included. I've caught myself in phrases that directly conflict with my ideals sometimes and it's because those thoughts are so ingrained in our society and our thoughts. Awareness is the first step. Recognizing that we have biases and that we can do better is tough, but the more we realize what biases we have and work to correct them the better things will be.

Social media is a great place for bringing issues to light and raising awareness. Ideas spread quickly online and people take notice. So do your homework, keep talking, keep listening, and most of all respect one another. It is our unique experiences that make us all such wonderful and interesting people. Diversity isn't a competition. It's something to be celebrated. Because at the end of the day, when we bring all of our differences to the table, the world becomes a much stronger place. Social media is the perfect arena to come together and honor our uniqueness. Enjoy the discussions and learn from them. Spread the knowledge and make the world better.

2 comments:

  1. I like your line, "Diversity isn't a competition." Also, how the "world becomes a stronger place,' when we celebrate our differences. I'm a Latina author writing multicultural MG, among other subjects, and I agree that awareness is a wonderful first step towards bringing diverse issues to light.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your insight. Awareness is definitely the first place to start. We can't deal with the issue if we don't first recognize there is a problem.

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