Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Sep 2, 2012.

  1. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 27, 2013
    star 2
    I'm sure I'll catch some flak for asking this, perhaps even a good deal, but my logic demands that I do so.

    Since we all accept the idea of inter-racial, inter-species equality (at least I think we all do, yes?), what exactly is the precise benefit of a more diverse cast specifically over a less diverse one? Since we are fundamentally the same, why does it really matter what arbitrary social distinction based on a wide range of genetic factors one is?

    Or to put it in some rather more famous words, should we not judge characters "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character"?
  2. Rilwen_Shadowflame Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 27, 2005
    star 6
    If by 'your logic' you mean 'your trolling', sure. I suggest you read more of the thread.;)
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  3. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    Ah yes, accusations of trolling, for asking a question. Of course.

    I read the opening few pages, and the last few pages. My question remains: what makes the human race so different that one must show some arbitrary spread of physical features?
  4. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Jul 22, 2010
    star 5
    I agree with the sentiment that a characters ethnicity doesn't fundamentally change the character or the story (unless it's a period piece where racism is prominent). Objectively, there isn't actually any "benefit" a story will gain by changing skin colors around, but it does better reflect reality. Even the most ridiculous stories should retain some connection to reality; unless segregation or racism is a major part of your plot, it's very annoying and very noticeable when there's no one in your cast who isn't a white guy with brown hair. Logically, in the Star Wars galaxy, there is no reason why humans would separate based on race. The stories should reflect that.

    A bad story will not magically become a good story because it stars a black protagonist. No one (at least I hope no one) is arguing that. It's just that in a universe like Star Wars, race within humans shouldn't be an issue at all. When you get a comic with only white people, it completely loses that futuristic feel. It draws attention to the writer (or artist), not the work. There's no worse way to yank a person out of the story.

    With novels, diversity (or lack thereof) doesn't bother me that much, at least for background characters. You're free to imagine those people however you wish; I don't necessarily need to know the skin color of every Johnny No-name in the room. Even so, people do need to get out of that old "white unless proven black" thought process.

    For so long in storytelling, there's been the notion that you must have a white male lead in order to make a profit, that minorities should play minor roles only. That's just simply something that needs to end, both for real, social reasons and because of the fact that it simply does not make sense in the Star Wars universe. Speaking for myself only, I never judge a work based on its diversity; but if the cast is diverse, that can only help it.
    Last edited by instantdeath, Feb 9, 2013
  5. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    To better reflect reality and thus enhance the story is a logical answer that makes sense. I appreciate that.

    For a bit of context, the idea of separating into "race" based on physical features is something that I find rather silly, due to both my biological studies and of course my own genetics. I am "hispanic" in the sense that my family came from Mexico to the United States prior to my birth, and I am "white" in the sense that I have fair hair and pale skin. I prefer to think of myself as "American" and more broadly as simply "human".
    Last edited by Why_So_Serious, Feb 9, 2013
  6. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Apr 4, 2011
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    When you have a depiction of the Jedi Order and the majority are white human males, it looks a bit... odd. As they say, variety is the spice of life, so why not spice up our comics and novels with some more variety?
  7. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Jul 22, 2010
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    It's also worth noting that this thread covers aliens as well. The Star Wars universe is ridiculously diverse; no need to only use humans when you have so many cool species to choose from. Makes the galaxy richer, feel so much more alive.
    Last edited by instantdeath, Feb 9, 2013
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  8. Rilwen_Shadowflame Force Ghost

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    You combined that quote, with that argument. Trolling seemed a reasonable assumption from there.:)

    But, if you are indeed serious, consider that a work does not exist solely within its constructed world. It exists as a text to be viewed by people in this world. And people in this world need that diversity.

    Why? Because the perception is that a white straight human male is the default, and that anything else is the Other. Different. Niche. And therefore not relevant to people in general. Fiction can normalise a perception, or it can challenge it. And this is a perception that needs to change, so a very large proportion of humanity can stop being told their stories are only minority-interest stories.

    An example: Women, and the term 'chick flick.' If something is a 'chick flick', it is derided, considered less worthy as a story. But what is a 'chick flick'?
    From tumblr:
  9. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 27, 2013
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    Yes, I agree with that idea. Realism is good. It's just the concept of showing differing features for the sake of meeting some arbitrary checklist that puzzles me. That's just what happens when you do a bit of study and realize that just about everyone is the product of a great deal of mixed-raced breeding, and so the whole concept is just a silly social idea taped over an arbitrary set of physical features or geographic origin.
  10. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    As an artist, I'll say this:

    Non-humans are so much more fun to draw than white human males.
  11. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Feb 2, 2010
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    In the specific case of Star Wars we have two, sometimes overlapping, sets of diversity issues. The first is those that reflect social issues and contreveries present in-universe. Sexism and speciesism (and to a lesser and more convoluted extent droid rights) are both such issues - there are obvious cases in-universe and the way these conditions across persons and societies within the Star Wars context tells the audience something about personality, character, and the nature of various societies. ie. the Galactic Empire's status as a bastion of oppression is meant to be part of why they are 'evil.'

    We also have out-of-universe diversity issues, because the Star Wars universe does not exist in a vacuum, it exists on Earth and specifically in the United States. The latter is particularly relevant with regard to the issue of intrahuman ethnic diversity, because the population of Star Wars has to either reflect its primary audience (US residents), provide an explanation for why it somehow does not, or present the implicit appearance of prejudice on the part of the creative staff if and when the numbers do not match. This is a difference between Star Wars and say, a Japanese anime space opera. Japan is not ethnically diverse and it is entirely common in their productions that everyone in space is Japanese and no one really cares. Since Star Wars is strongly implied to be a post-racial color-blind universe with regard to human appearance traits, however realistic this may or may not be considered by various members of the audience, this issue have no in-universe impact and efectively no impact on storytelling at all (in video games often explicitly so, where you can change character 'race' outright and it alters absolutely zero of the rest of their character actions) so it is merely a matter of identification and working agaisnt presenting the appearance of prejudice.
  12. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    I don't think the characters are being judged by the color of their skin, it is the people in the real world who are creating the characters that are being called to task for that. We live in a real world where ethnic diversity and variety is seen by most on a daily basis, yet we open up a Star Wars novel and more often than not 90 plus percent of the human characters fit one description.

    Its about equality and fair treatment because we are not all the same. We are all human beings yes, but a wide divide still exists in how we treat each other

    I just don't see where this we are all the same so its alright for every Star Wars character, or more over every single fictional character, to be presented with the same color of skin is going. Is it wrong to have a Chinese or Japanese character represented in Star Wars? How do you feel about an event like Folklarama, http://www.folklorama.ca/ , an event that celebrates ethnic diversity? Should we just go to those people and tell them that we are all the same and that their little festival is pointless?

    None the less these social ideals exists in our society no matter how you feel about it. Excluding(either intentionally or through ingnorance) people who look a certain way, or act a certain way, from presentation in our popular culture isn't the way to go.
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  13. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 2, 2012
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    [IMG]

    ST fourm plz leave
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  14. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 27, 2013
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    It's certainly not wrong to show someone with the physical features we call "Asian". What is wrong, however, is to show them solely because they're Asian.

    Yes. Yes we should. They concept of race is stupid and has no basis in logic or biology, and serves only to drive a wedge between us as humans. We should be doing our best to eradicate the very idea, not celebrating it.

    Yes, and we should be trying to eradicate them, because they do nothing but divide us, and not even for a logical reason.

    I am not suggesting exclusion, what I suggest is that the idea that a certain arbitrary percentage of characters have to look a certain way, just because, is stupid.
  15. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 2, 2012
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    Well if everyone thought like this there would be no diversity in fiction. A character looks like something is the creators choice and more times then not their white. Increasingly America's majority is minorities, why is it wrong to cater to an untapped form of revenue?
    Last edited by Esg, Feb 9, 2013
  16. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 27, 2013
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    Because all it does is cause further division among us. There's no logical or biological basis for race, and it serves no useful social function. It doesn't tell you anything about the individual in question. For instance, on racial surveys I am lumped into the category of "Hispanic" for my last name and the origin of my family. But I look nothing like what people think of as Hispanic, rarely visit Mexico (especially since my grandparents living there died), almost never leave the upscale parts of Mexico City when I do, and don't even speak Spanish very well. I'm totally different from say, a dark-skinned, black haired man who barely speaks English and came here solely to earn remittances to send back home. Why are we lumped together when we have so little in common?
  17. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    So you would be fine with every character in Star Wars being white skinned?

    Celebrating?

    How are you going to eradicate the idea without drawing attention to it? By ignoring it?

    As well a lot of people actually enjoy celebrating their heritage. Its part of our history, who we are as individuals. We should celebrate our differences, not destroy them.

    I think it is stupid to look at a list of known human Star Wars characters, see that 99% of them are white, and then shrug it off as being somehow acceptable. This thread is not about shoe horning in certain ethnicities where they do not belong, its about saying those ethnicities should be there already but are being clearly excluded for some reason.

    Its kinda the equivilant for me of Major League Baseball not allowing black players into their league. Even though their was no official rule against having black players play in the MLB, we do know that there were none there before the late 1940's. They needed to change how they did things.

    Further this topic is then attempting to further examine the reasons why people who look a certain way are not used in Star Wars, more notably the Star Wars expanded Universe.
  18. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    @Serious - while I'd prefer Rilwen had given you a little more benefit of the doubt, because this thread is useless if we scare off everybody with a dissenting opinion, this is basically the answer to your question. Philosophically, "eradicating" race is a delightful notion, but in the meantime, we live in a world so prejudiced that three- and four-year-old black children have already inculcated the idea that white people are better than them. Pretending there's no problem merely because there shouldn't be one does not itself make the problem go away.

    What I will grant you, and maybe this thread does lose sight of this often, is that arbitrary ratios are dumb. No one is saying that once there are X brown people everything will be fine--for one thing, SW could be loaded with nonwhites and still do a horrible job of portraying them. The point of this thread is to call attention to the problem, not to set imaginary goalposts.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Feb 9, 2013
  19. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    Yes, certainly racial prejudice of all kinds is a problem. But the solution, like with most things, is logic and science. What is needed is widespread education on biological facts, not simply increased portrayal of people with differing physical features. That won't change any minds. Science can. For example, one factoid most people don't know that could help with such tensions is that the average "African-American" is 23% genetically European. Around 10% of those that think of themselves as solely of European descent are anywhere from 10 to 75% genetically African.

    The answer to the problem of race is education in biological reality.
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  20. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    In an ideal reality, that might be the case. The truth, unfortunately, is that facts often come second to media in shaping opinions.
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  21. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 27, 2013
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    Which is a good reason to get these realities out there via the media, not simply increase the portrayals of people of different features. How many racists, black, white, or any other color, do you think are seriously won out by portrayals of others?
  22. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    Sep 8, 2004
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    Racist adults might not be changed, no, but children form their opinions of the world based on what they experience in it, not what they study at university twenty years later, and children are influenced much more by television these days than what garbage their parents might be feeding them. This is why schools increasingly get children to read books that include positive black, female and gay role models, rather than just 18th century classics filled with middle-class, heterosexual white males.

    You can't do that, however, without having enough popular literature for kids to consume that features said characters.
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  23. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    A few more than are by the percentages you quote, I think. All the biology in the world isn't going to teach children equality if all they see are white faces when they turn on the television. You need to show, not just tell.
  24. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I think the racial percentage thing is a great point, but like the others are saying, all the science in the world isn't going to get through to someone who just doesn't want to hear it. Growing up with Dora and Mace Windu won't educate them on the reality of racial genetics, but it will make them more open to learning about it, in a way that Full House won't.
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  25. Why_So_Serious Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 27, 2013
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    If equality is your goal, then you would be best served by teaching the idea of individuality, rather than attempting to portray each and every racial sub-group positively. There are several thousand of those, you know.