Diversity Initiatives: Equality vs Equity

I am a writer. I write in any way I think that will best convey a story. Usually that means a novel or script, but occasionally a short story. I am also a black woman. Yeah, that shouldn’t mean anything when it comes to my writing. The writing should be held up and judged on its own merit, but often that is not the case. Women and people of color are often not represented in media.

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It’s this that sparks things like #OscarsSoWhite, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #OwnVoices, and diversity initiatives in both publishing and film. Sadly, these attempts to make creative industries more inclusive than the “old white boys club” they are often seen as comes with some backlash. White men complaining that it is harder for them to break in because because people want diversity. Mind you, diversity is usually spoken with contempt in these conversations.

There is a saying (for the life of me I cannot find who originally said it) “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” When programs are created to give the underrepresented a  chance, so many overrepresented people decry it as “racist”.

Cis white men often cry out “Why are we holding down the white man?” “It is getting so hard to be a white man.” They ignore their privilege (often narrowing it down to “well I didn’t get such-and-such so I can’t be privileged.”)

It is usually in the face of the few programs out there that are specifically to help underrepresented individuals (usually people of color, women, disabled, or queer) break into industries. But since they exist, there are the ever present complaints that helping underrepresented people is “racist.”

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People with privilege often look at the world in a sense of equality, rather than equity. If they want to “help” underrepresented people, they want it in a way that gives those people equal opportunity as them, ignoring that they often have a  leg up that still puts them ahead. Programs focused on diversity look more towards equity that gives the underrepresented an extra boost so that they will be on the same footing as the privileged.

While this extra boost may seem unfair to some, it is what is currently needed to get to a point where were can focus on equality rather than equity. Maybe within the next few generations, industries like film and publishing will no longer need diversity programs. With then incoming amounts of diverse people working in these fields, maybe others like them will get the opportunities that were previously denied to them. Until then, shut up and stop whining about equity within those few programs and check your privilege.

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