It should be absolutely no secret to any and all of you that I’m an advocate for diversity. There are a myriad of different reasons for this, from the “it would be nice…” of seeing a little more colour in popular media to the more specific “think of the children” that pertains to White boys specifically [not White girls or Black boys and girls] having their self-esteem boosted by watching TV. What some people don’t realize is that the need need for diversity extends beyond actors and the characters they portray to the actual creators involved.
I’m not going to say that a White man cannot ever be involved in the creation of art that discusses or features minorities and their struggles- it’s a topic I touched on when discussing children’s author Rich Michelson and the books he’s written about the Civil Rights Movement. These stories can, and have been, and will continue to be valid, the question remains as to why we live in a world where a James Brown biopic can be created as a summer blockbuster and have “all the producers, writers, and the director [. . . be] white.” At what point should anyof these people stopped and thought to themselves, “Maybe a Black person would be able to provide a perspective on this that none of the rest of us could?” “Immediately” is the answer in case you were wondering.
This is all a lead-up to how, if this is definitely a problem in our current culture, we can change things. As history would dictate I am going to be coming at this from a distinctly comic-related perspective, but the issues therein can be paralleled across the board to TV and movies.
One possibility would be for the publishers to maintain a quota when it comes to hiring creators. Gordon and I touched on this a little bit when we were discussing affirmative action, with him stating that it is actually illegal in the States. Beyond that little technicality, it would also cause whoever was hired to be the subject of constant scrutiny and criticism given that they appeared to be hired not based on their actual talent or merits but the colour of their skin, or gender, or sexual orientation. No, quotas don’t appear to be the solution- the issue is that the very idea of just suggesting or promoting minority creatives suffers that same harsh examination.
In October of last year Comics Alliance created a feature called “Hire This Woman”. The first installment and every one following has been prefaced with the following paragraph that sums up their goal:
“In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.'”
While the reception on the site itself has overall been quite positive, very recently a link to the feature that spotlit artist Afua Richardson appeared on the comicbooks subreddit that was met with a lot of judgement-
To sum up the redditor’s comment, her being the focus of this particular feature “demeans and belittles her accomplishments” by concentrating on her as a woman as opposed to being an artist. Given the title I’m sure it could be taken that way, but actually reading through it reveals a very thorough interview that delves into her creative process and past. In other words nothing about the actual article even touches on her gender; it’s strictly professional.
The more times you read black_trans_otherkin’s comment the faster you realize that the real problem for them lies in the feature’s name. Surely there would be no issue if Comics Alliance merely chose to spotlight creators in general who they believed deserve the attention, but narrowing the scope is what crosses the line.
Still another comment opines that “I’m sure there are other artists, white, asian, black, brown, female, male, transgendered, etc… That would love the promotion,” and you know what? They’re right! The creative world in and outside of comic books is hard and every new creator needs all the exposure that they can get. It’s just that if you ask me a push to get more White men into the industry isn’t really going to shake things up. That’s not to say that there aren’t a multitude of very talented people among them, it’s that promoting them in the same way Comics Alliance is doing so with 50% of the population seems unnecessary.
And again, this isn’t to deride the White artists and writers out there some of which I personally know and am close to, it’s that at this point in time there are other perspectives that need more of a push. I want to see more than just Argentinian writer/artist [on left] penning All-New Ghost Rider. I want more than Babs Tarr drawing Batgirl and Kelly Sue Deconnick writing
Captain Marvel. We live in a world that gets increasingly diverse with every passing day, and if, as a culture, we don’t have equally diverse creators serving that population then we are failing in a huge way.
If a little extra promotion is what a female letterer or a Lebanese writer needs to get noticed, then so be it. And if, in addition to that, editors at any and all publishers could look a little harder at those underrepresented groups they could find some truly mind-blowing talent. Creators that live up to their title and speak to experiences that have had so few voices represent them in the past.