“The Problem with Diversity” Response Part 1

[Part 2] [Part 3]

Originally posted 5 September 2016

I usually don’t care to read or write point by point refutations of people’s controversial opinions if nothing of note is being added to whatever conversation is being had at the moment, but Sunday night I witnessed what has to be the worst case of white nonsense that I’ve ever seen on BookTube. The video was posted several days ago, but I haven’t been able to forget about it. It’s a video by an adult BookTuber by the name of Bre Faucheux [pronounced foe-shay] who wanted to make a discussion video about “the problem with diversity”. I thought her video would go on a similar route that that of another BookTuber by the name Francina Simone’s  did, but boy was I wrong! I thought that the video would be primarily an admonishment of the “Groupthink” phenomenon that comes with any discussion of social issues via social media, but then…

P.S. This is going to be a very long, link heavy post, I encourage all who read this to check out every link, they’re very important; also there is a larger point that I want to make about what this video represents, but to do it I’m going to have to break down the video and my response into three parts. PLEASE read the entire post!!!

P.P.S. Unless otherwise specified, majority of the “historic context” examples I use in this post will be in reference to Black American struggles, as I am a Black American woman.


A Little Background Information

According to Faucheux, her annoyance with the dialogue around diversity had been building for a long while because she felt that the word was too often being used as a way for people to “attack” certain authors for not featuring marginalized groups. Now, when she said this it gave me the impression that that was going to be the entirety of her video: providing examples of times authors were piled on for not including diverse characters. Now, I will admit that this is the only of two portions of her video that I agreed with her on, because misinformed, overzealous individuals can and do exhibit very vicious behavior in the name of social justice. Speaking of vicious, Faucheux brings up a particular exchange that she saw happening between several Twitter users whom she did not name and Victoria Schwab, author of the adult fantasy novel Vicious. This account, possibly in a conversation or thread, mentioned that they didn’t like that Vicious had a predominantly white cast of characters (or at least no definitely distinguishable characters of color). I don’t know how that exchange went down, but Faucheux did show a few of Schwab’s responses.

I’m not even going to go into the all too often habit of white authors throwing around words like “hate” and “attack”, because that’s a whole other issue in and of itself.

This exchange obviously had Faucheux feeling some type of way, and thus drove her to make the video.


The Only Two Good Points in this Whole Video

Like I mentioned previously, Faucheux only really made maybe two points that I can agree with. One is that people can and do become radically more aggressive and vicious online, especially on Twitter, because it can create this mob mentality (Groupthink) where people throw all sorts of emotionally charged, often violent, rhetoric at one person or group of people in the name of social justice, and as a result dissenting opinions, or any attempts at reasoning, can be ignored or perceived as “siding with the enemy”, this is also another topic for another day.

The other point she makes is that many use social justice as a smokescreen to nitpick and harass others because of a personal qualm he or she has with someone. As someone who spends a great deal of time on Twitter and Tumblr, I can affirm that these two patterns of behavior are prevalent within the social justice community and need to stop, because they’re counter productive and don’t do anything in the way of fostering actual conversation and dissection of the oppressive systems that exist in the world.  Very good points. That being said, the remainder of the video possesses no redeeming qualities at all…


On to the Rest of the Nonsense…

Faucheux feels that people ultimately ignored the “moral ambiguity” that is a recurring theme throughout the novel to harp on Schwab and her novels lack of racial diversity. This is my first issue in this 22 minute long fiasco of a video.

Faucheux is clearly a part of the section of humanity that thinks that everyone (primarily “SJWs”) is only capable of linear thinking; everyone but themselves. They have this idea that if anyone brings up a criticism of a work of fiction or art, especially as it pertains to race, then that person has clearly misunderstood the purpose of the work or doesn’t understand the “true meaning” of something. Simply because someone criticizes the lack of racial diversity in a novel does not mean that he or she does not understand or account for themes and motifs and other quality aspects of a work. People can think differing thoughts about one thing at the same time, and pointing out a particular flaw is not an indication of an overall dislike.

Faucheux then goes on to bring up the age old rebuttal of “If so-and-so had written a cast of POC, you guys would have criticized him/her”. Damn right, we would have, but it isn’t simply for the fact that Schwab is white. It’s because, in society overall, when it comes to identities outside of the white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied form, there is an endless abyss of stereotypes and tropes that hyper-sexualize and degrade people of color, black men and women in particular, emotionally abuse and ruthlessly murder gay, lesbian, and trans people (I’m not even going to get into bi and asexual erasure) with no real reason, and further stigmatizes and trivializes mental disability as “mood swings” or “teenage angst”, just to name a few egregious examples.

Many of the narrative tropes and stereotypes concerning people of color were created by white people as methods for justifying their mistreatment or absolving themselves of their guilt rather than rectifying their despicable behavior (see the magical negro and noble savage tropes); harmful tropes and cliches can and are used by different writers all the time, but taking into account an industry that employs and promotes a disproportionate number of white people (full study here) compared to any other race as well as the historical context of when and why certain tropes were created, critiques of white authors will be more prevalent, but not without reason; the scrutiny comes from a place of irritation and grief. People of color have long since been critical of the works of white writers in regards to dehumanizing characterization (describing skin as food for example) as well as a seeming glee that white writers take in brutalizing characters of color for emotional impact on white characters, two such behaviors that white writers have made no real efforts to cease. This does not mean that authors of color are exempt from perpetuating these bad behaviors or the resulting criticism, because interracial stereotyping and prejudice between communities of color is a thing, but racial narrative tropes are and have been wielded as tools of oppression by the majority (white folks) against “minorities” (people of color) for a long time. People don’t harp on white writers for the LOLZ.

Faucheux also brings in the adage of “write what you know” as a defense for Schwab and other white authors writing predominantly or all white characters. While it is true that most white people mostly only associate with other white people, if one is to pursue any sort of career in an artistic endeavor (yes, writing is an art) it is imperative that one opens their mind to the myriad cultures, schools of thought, and art styles that permeate the modern world. This includes socializing with people outside of ones race and portraying them in all their three dimensional glory as fully recognized characters in a novel while also being aware of how people unlike the writer have been treated in the medium in the past. One has to get to know more than what they know or else his or her works are not art.

Let’s also clear something else up: no one thinks simply having a cast of characters be majority or all white is inherently racist. Whether or not something is lambasted and labeled as racist depends on several factors:

  1. how non-white characters are treated within the narrative in relation to their white counterparts
  2. the setting and context within which a story takes place (there has never been an all-white anywhere ever in history, so stop that lie)
  3. using colors and other visual cues to distinguish “good” from “evil” (white magic = good vs. black magic = bad or anti-heroic)
  4. gratuitous and repeated use of violence against characters of color
  5. erasure of people of color from areas heavily populated by people of color in real life (Brooklyn, Chicago, Detroit, etc.)
  6. repeated portrayals of characters of color as violent or sexually aggressive in any way (especially towards white female characters and especially black and Hispanic men)

All of these can point to a bias within a writer, and these are just a few patterns that I’ve noticed white authors use. If you’ve noticed any trends, feel free to leave a comment.

Then, the ~5 minute 45 second mark hits and begins what can only be described as the world record for the highest number of logical fallacies and false equivalences ever put into a single video. This comprises the majority of the rest video.

Faucheux brings up the “historical accuracy/context” argument. She posits that if people are so unreasonably tart about a lack of racial diversity, which she clearly views as trivial and as some form of censorship, then “where would it end”? Would we move to ban a historical work that uses the N-word simply because it has been used as a slur, regardless of its relevance to the context of the narrative? Like most questions of this nature, it depends. For me, the N-word has no rhetorical value in fiction or non-fiction – for the life of me, I will never understand non-black people’s fixation with saying the N-word, but that’s another topic for another time. You can acknowledge the prevalence of racial injustice without gratuitously inserting slur words into every line of dialogue – the Magnificent Seven did this wonderfully. Also, the N-word is not the only racial slur used against black people; there is an eternal lexicon of derogatory terms that are still employed today to dehumanize black people: coon, porch monkey, jigaboo, spook, tar-baby, etc. There also exists coded language that stands in for slurs since certain modes and models of racist expression have become unacceptable in everyday encounters: words like “thug” and “gangster” and “urban” and “ghetto” have become racialized to primarily mean poor black people. The fascination with the mere utterance of certain words creates this idea that something is not racist if a particular group of words is not directly stated, and therefore the offending parties do not have to take responsibility for their actions. It’s how you can have a sitting US Representative say on live television that white people are the only people that have contributed to society [[this is incorrect]], it’s how you can have two white people from California create an entire, anonymous, Internet persona that heavily appropriates from, stereotypes, and mocks black people, (add digital and literary blackface to your anti-racism repertoire), it’s how an entire media industry can excuse a racist fraternity chant, it’s how you can have all of these things happen and still have people that say “Well, if the N-word wasn’t said how can something be racist?”, “They’re just kids, they made a dumb mistake.” (racism has a disgusting habit of criminalizing children of color while creating this extended childhood for adult whites, never holding them accountable). Language and semantics and vernacular are very fluid and shape ideas about issues such as racism; they adapt to changing times to maintain power structures and cannot and should not be simplified to whether or not a specific word was or was not written or said.

Bre then asserts that “diversity” is a modern concept that was not preached by ANY civilization prior to maybe the twentieth century. She said, and I quote:

…If we’re going to talk ‘accurate history’, there are very few cultures throughout history that have encouraged diversity; it’s a very, very modern concept. We could literally sit here all day long talking about how race, ethnicity, values, and moral virtue have never been a point of people wanting to assimilate with one another. Diversity has never been a prized virtue within history.

Assimilate, no. Co-exist is a better word. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment in Europe are well-known examples of the circulation of ideas and thoughts (primarily because of Euro-centric curriculum, something that I feel contributes to Faucheux’s view; also something I’ll discuss at a later date), but they were not the only time that this occurred. The Islamic Golden Age gave rise to many influential ideas and practices that were updates of Chinese and Greco-Roman concepts. During this era, the creation and advancement of many branches of mathematics such as geometry and algebra came about. This was also the period where some of the first ideas about evolution were discussed. The Middle East bridges the gap between three of the worlds six inhabited continents (because no one is goin’ up through Russia’s cold ass) and is and has been instrumental in the spread of ideas and technology and scientific advancement.

When Faucheux says that “diversity has never been a prized virtue within history”, she is most likely referencing the strife that was a product of the domination of religion in much of the ancient world, especially in Europe. For much of human history, religious institutions ran the (known) world, shaping every aspect of society and using religion as a tool for political authority. In regards to Christianity, particularly Catholicism, because only the clergy were allowed to learn to read the Bible (when it was still written in Latin) there was a stringent hold on the population because lay people had no point of reference for learning or understanding doctrine; all of what they absorbed came from the mouthpiece of the Church. When “diversity of thought” – which is something that Faucheux lists as a “form of diversity” – came about in the form of something like the Protestant Reformation, or anything that did not come from the Church, it was seen as heretical and an affront to God, and there was often violent push back by the powers that be through the use of propaganda, fear, and manipulation of the public. This fight against “diversity” was not a conscious decision by a large portion of the population because they were born fearing differences; rather, it was resultant of years of conditioning by higher powers that feared loss of power if dissenting ideas were allowed to take seed.

Sound familiar?

Faucheux lists a few examples of political and religious maneuvering to prove how diversity has never been encouraged in the ancient world.

  • Muslim “aggression” against Europeans

This is entirely too vague to actually quantify with specificity of time, place, or persons. Christianity and Islam have had a deeply complex and varied relationship since the beginnings of both religions. They have at once been allies as well as enemies, they were birthed from the same region (the Middle East), they share similar values, and views of one religion by the other vary from sister religions to unrelated cults. The shared, multi-layered history of two of the worlds largest religions cannot simply be summed up as “Muslim aggression against Europeans (at some point in history)” (which is really code for brown people attacking white people because white Christians don’t callously murder in the name of God).

  • The clash of classes in the French Revolution

The French Revolution was about dismantling a political system that had caused massive wealth disparities between the classes due to war debts being paid by the 99% and astronomical levels of poverty that resulted under France’s absolute monarchy, among other reasons. The French Revolution marked the global decline of absolute monarchies and is considered one of the most important events in human history. It was not about rejection of race or diversity of thought.

  • The burning of suspected witches and heretics

Witch hunts had little to nothing to do with rejection of difference of thought nor racial diversity. These executions were indicative of fear of the supernatural as well as religious extremism in the case of the Salem Witch trials.

  • The “aggression” between colonials and Native Americans (I’m going to skip this one for now)
  • Israel vs. Palestine

As with Christianity and Islam, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a multi-layered struggle, and one that has been going on for much of the 20th century. The conflict stems from and continues to this day for innumerable causes and therefore cannot be summed up like a Supreme Court case.

  • The Holocaust (& Nazis burning books) (coming back to these two, too)
  • Islamic Slave Trade (quoth Faucheux: “Which by the way, was ten times worse than the American slave trade, but no one ever asks for reparations from the Muslims.”)

This one made me lose my fucking mind!!! White people, y’all really need to stop this. Neither the Islamic slave trade nor the existence of slavery in other forms excuse the fact that American slavery existed. Pointing the finger at wrong behavior does not absolve you if you commit the same impropriety. The system of race based chattel slavery did not exist before the colonization of North America and has had far reaching ramifications for the descendants of African slaves in the United States. Since white Americans are the dominant demographic in this nation and continue to benefit off the enslavement and oppression of black Americans both present and past, you’re damn right we’re going to demand reparations. We’ve been targets for violence and discrimination since we set foot on this continent, and every single issue that plagues the black community today can be traced back to systems created by white people as a way to keep us marginalized after the abolition of slavery; everything from red-lining and housing discriminationviolence and lynchings, the War on Drugs, all of it stems from white supremacy. We cannot fix the issues regarding African descendants in the Muslim world, because those issues stem from different seeds.

  • Catholics vs. Protestants (just answered this one)

Now, about the points I skipped…

  • The “aggression” between colonials and Native Americans | The Holocaust (& Nazis burning books)

Both of these examples are dangerously over simplified situations wherein people of color and ethnic minorities are victims of white supremacy. White supremacy is not about introducing new ideas and including people of different backgrounds and value sets than oneself; it is about the pigmentation of ones skin being used as justification for destroying or subjugating those who you do not consider fully human to begin with. Native Americans fighting against the colonization of their ancestral homelands and the genocide being waged against them is not mere “aggression”, and Nazism is not about spreading knowledge and fostering cooperation between communities, its about white supremacy, and it used the Jews as scapegoats for the short comings of an entire nation, and they’re not the best examples a white person should use to justify their belief that diversity doesn’t matter.

The point I want to get to with all of that is that this use of ancient (and not-so-ancient) history is another tool of deflection and an utterly astounding misinterpretation of discourse. When people dismiss “historical accuracy” as an excuse for the exclusion of people of color, we aren’t saying that we believe that ancient, ancient societies welcomed every single outside thought or expression with open arms. We know that they didn’t.

Despite the Euro-centric, revisionist history being taught in schools, people of color didn’t suddenly discover the larger world after white people fucked up our shit. We’d had a few millennia of discovery and exploration under our belts before white people. Black people have been as far North as Scandinavia and as far East as Japan; the Eastern portion of Russia is predominantly of Asian descent – Mongols specifically. I know it must be shocking to find out that Russia isn’t completely white, but my point is that people need to get out of this mentality that five whole other continents full of people didn’t know anything about the world until The Great White Man showed up.

For example, in the case of American history, what we’re referencing is the erasure of people of color and the superimposing of the mythological white person who did everything onto the achievements and contributions of people of color to American society.

A prime example is the controversy that surrounded Agent Carter from its debut to its cancellation. Think piece after article after think piece was written about the shows lack of racial diversity, with particular emphasis on women of color since the show was being touted as a “universal, feminist masterpiece”. Popular excuses given in every instance of criticism were either “Wait” (quoth the White Feminists) or “There were no people of color”/“segregation” (quoth White Feminists and general racists). To combat this revisionist historical fiction, the hashtag #DiversifyAgentCarter [1] | [2] | [3] was created by Mikki Kendall (@karnythia), who can be credited with starting several influential hashtags including the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen [1] | [2] | [3] and #HistoricPOC hashtags, to combat the notion that 1940s America (and history overall) was filled to the brim with only white people as well as point out that white women’s achievements only “paved the way” for other white women.

In regards to Black Americans, we have fought in every single war that America has participated in: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and every skirmish in between. Of course, for a time we fought in segregated regiments and then returned to a segregated country, but we fought and were and are rarely given due credit for the sacrifices that we’ve made.

These are the things that people are attempting to combat when we speak up about diversity. It’s not about being “anti-white” white folks. Stop being so angry all the time (how there’s not an “Angry White People” trope in fiction, I’ll never know).

I’m going to pause here for the first half of my response. This is only a dissection of the first ten minutes of Faucheux’s video, Part 2 will cover the latter half, and Part 3 will be the culmination piece, including my personal thoughts on the importance of diversity and inclusion and why video’s like this are important, despite their unpleasantness. I hope that those who read this will take something away from it and better understand what it is that we’re aiming for when we say the things we say about representation, and as always have a fantastic day!!! BYE!!!

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I blog about things on this here blog that you're reading right now. Things like movies, food, anime, whatever grabs my attention. I'm big into pop culture criticism, so that's mostly what you're going to get here, but I also write short fiction as well as fan fiction, so I may share that with you all some day.

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