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Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

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

  1. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 23, 2004
    Dark Skinned People can have blue eyes if one of their ancestors had them. It can apparently even skip generations, a school friend of mine was very dark skinned and had one green and one blue eye, whilst both his parents had brown eyes and where also dark skinned, apparently he got the blue eyes from one of his grandmothers who was white skinned French and hair color is easy to adjust by just coloring it. :)

    Edit: Michael Ealy (an actor) is also dark skinned and blue eyed

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Ealy
     
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  2. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Chosen One star 10

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    Biology in the SW universe doesn't have to exactly match the "real world" either. Maybe there, blond is dominant rather than recessive? Or redhead is?

    "Green-eyed redhead" is rare in real life- but you've got Mara, Daala, and others in Star Wars.
     
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  3. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    Forget biology altogether - I think the Outlander Club (and the PT Senate, really) shows that GFFA humans will make themselves look however they damn well feel like looking.
     
  4. Rilwen_Shadowflame

    Rilwen_Shadowflame Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Mar 27, 2005
    Oh yes, really rather a lot of others. I made a list at one point. As a redhead, the topic interested me. (Also as a redhead, I can tell you this: it only looks rare to some people. If you have it, and six or more cousins have it, and there are three or more others in your school grade who have it, you start considering it pretty normal.)
     
  5. AdmiralNick22

    AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    May 28, 2003
    I have been giving some thought to the idea that the diversity of human is the Expaned Universe is in some part tied to the levels of diversity seen in the United States, given that the vast majority of all EU authors are American. So I pulled up the US demographics from the 2010 census:

    White, non-hispanic: 63.7%
    Hispanic: 16.4%
    Black/African American: 12.2%
    American Indian/Alaskan Indian: 0.7%
    Asian: 4.7%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0.2%
    Other Race/two or more races:2.1%

    Based on this, we should have, for every ten characters, roughly six human white characters to four human non-white characters. And, at least 1/10 should be black and 1/10 hispanic/brown.

    So here is my question: would this improved level of diversity meets everyone's standards? As an American, I would be very pleased with this level of diversity in Star Wars. No one is saying that white characters are bad and shouldn't be common, but they need to be less common and we need to see greater diversity.

    Thoughts?

    --Adm. Nick
     
  6. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    I would be happy with those numbers in that they're an improvement from what we actually have, but deliberately marrrying GFFA demography to any Earth culture carries with it a whole host of further problems.
     
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  7. AdmiralNick22

    AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    May 28, 2003
    But then, how do we define the appropriate level of diversity? Global demographics? The vast majority of Star Wars readership in American/European, so I can understand a certain degree of aligning closer to the demographics of Western countries.

    So, how do you define the level of diversity you want to see?

    --Adm. Nick
     
  8. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    More.

    :p

    Edit: But seriously, I think that when the officials talk about wanting the casts to come together naturally, I think what they're specifically trying to avoid is a scenario in which authors have statistical check-boxes hanging over their heads, and I agree with that. Diversity isn't about percentages, it's about how the characters that are there are being approached.
     
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  9. The Loyal Imperial

    The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Nov 19, 2007
    No. That would require that non-Hispanic whites be a minority.
     
  10. AdmiralNick22

    AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    May 28, 2003
    Out of curiosity, to what degree?

    --Adm. Nick
     
  11. The Loyal Imperial

    The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Ideally? Let's say one-in-three to one-in-five.
     
  12. Skaddix

    Skaddix Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 3, 2012
    Please Don't Try to use Biology to explain anything. its already obvious they failed at it.
     
  13. JediFreac

    JediFreac Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 7, 2002


    I really don't know if that would meet my standards. I always found this kind of argument to be dubious at best, because if you really think about it, if you really backtrack to look at the context, then there's also this added dimension of justify WHY the numbers look like this today. I mean, the United States is this land that was populated by the indigenous peoples of America...It currently has a majority-white population today in part due to some really messed up practices (eg: the indigenous people were slaughtered for land, people of color were stolen from their families and socialized to become white, immigration of people of color was bottlenecked while immigration of white ethnics was widely encouraged, people of color were forcibly sterilized to prevent them from reproducing, all these different forms of social control, etc. No wonder people who are white make up the majority of Americans today.) It's really problematic to simply say "it needs to look exactly like the general American population today" because the general American population numbers also reflect a lot of racism that the GFFA is supposedly portrayed as beyond.

    I hope that makes sense. What I mean to say is, there is an explanation for why there are, for example, so few Native Americans in the United States. A lot of them were killed, and a lot of immigrants have come over. There's also an explanation for why so few Asians live in the United States proportionately. There is a bigger ocean to traverse then ocean separating this continent from Europe, and Asian immigration was discouraged while European immigration was discouraged. There is no explanation for why so many of the human Jedi Luke Skywalker decided to train at his praxeum are white, or why so many people on Coruscant are white (but I'm hoping that the no-prize fanwank explanation doesn't parallel American history...)

    At least meeting the numbers above would be a start, but it's not simply about meeting quotas, it's about envisioning a more diverse galaxy... Having all of the important heroes from every era be white dudes seriously affects the verisimilitude of these stories.

    In other news, I noticed that Tahl (Qui Gon Jinn's lover) has a new picture in the Reader's Companion. (BTW, in the book, Tahl is described as having dark skin and green eyes, so here is an example of the type of character brought up a few posts up.)
    [​IMG]

    Not having Jude Watson available to interview, I can speculate her process was: "Let's make Qui-Gon a romantic interest. Should it be a man or a woman? I guess it's going to have to be a woman. Well, I could make her a white redhead. Or...I could make her a woman with darker skin and light eyes because people also have that combination of physical features. Yeah, I could do that." Probably a more organic process than "what percentage of people have dark skin and green eyes?"
     
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  14. Skaddix

    Skaddix Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 3, 2012
    Good Argument JediSmurf
     
  15. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    Except, of course, that Tahl is an alien. :oops:
     
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  16. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2010
    But you can't blame people today for the sins of their fathers - it is unfair and also counterproductive, because swinging the pendulum too far is, in its own way, a form of prejudice. Saying people of European descent deserve to be under-represented today because they were over-represented historically solves nothing. it is also a contentious stance that would be difficult, if not impossible to defend. If one if making arguments to the powers-that-be at LFL saying that 'I wish the demographics of our characters to represent the actual demographics of the audience so that no one feels excluded and all can be inspired' is something that you can defend. Saying that 'I want the demographics to reflect a proper moral standard of diversity that is totally just and fair for everyone' is impossible to support and easily undercut.

    This is especially true in a fantasy universe like Star Wars, where the ethnic demography is entirely a product of the choices made by its creative staff. Star Wars was created by an American for an American audience. Yes, it has a measure of global popularity, but so do many works. No one expects space opera produced in ethnically monogamous cultures (even ones that have achieved said status via ancient genocidal campaigns) to represent global diversity just because people in other countries might happen to see them. Ex. I'm an anime fan, I've watched numerous pieces of Japanese created space opera in which the human species has come to dominate hundreds if not thousands of worlds and guess what, everyone is Japanese. No one has a problem with this and no one should have a problem accepting a Star Wars that reflects the world of its creator and its primary audience.

    Besides, the United States is, actually, one of the most demographically diverse countries in the world, and one that is becoming more so every year (with no sign of stopping any time in the near future). While the moving target of US demographics does complicate the problem (@AdmiralNick22 I have a set of posts several pages back that discusses the changes in US demographics since the publication of ANH that may interest you), it is certainly not the worst model to work with.
     
  17. Skaddix

    Skaddix Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 3, 2012
    Japan is like 99 percent Japanese.. The US is not 99 percent white. FALSE EQUIVALENCY.

    And yeah demo is changing but Lando and Mace are still like the only 2 black characters so lets not pretend star wars has been hitting anything close to 10 percent black
     
  18. Mia Mesharad

    Mia Mesharad Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    That's only if you go by the movies. While there's still a lot of room for some significant improvement, the EU's got quite a few black characters.
     
  19. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 23, 2004
    I never got why Amercians don't consider Hispanics to just be white, us Europeans do, must be the culture divide thing.

    Öh, whats left? North African/Middle Eastern? :confused:

    PS: If anyone is curious.

    UK 2011
    White British 85.67%
    White (other) 5.27%
    Indian 1.8%
    Pakistani 1.3%
    White Irish 1.2%
    Mixed 1.2%
    Black Caribbean 1.0%
    Black African 0.8%
    Bangladeshi 0.5%
    Chinese 0.4%
    Other Asian (non-Chinese) 0.4%
    Black (others) 0.2%
    Other 0.4%
     
  20. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2010
    No. You have completely missed the point I was making.

    Star Wars is an ostensibly colorblind universe, to the beings within that universe 'race', as we understand it today, is a construct without meaning save as a purely aesthetic component of human appearance. The same is true of numerous other fictional universes, and particularly common in space opera. As a result, the ethnic composition of the cast matters only from an out-of-universe perspective, in other words, what the audience thinks of it. The Star Wars audience, the one it was actually written for, is the United States populace.

    There is an expectation that for Star Wars to be on the appropriate side of this issue, that is the inclusive, tolerant, non-biased side, it should have a diverse demographic composition. As the intended audience, and the worldview and experience of the creative team are that of the United States, a reasonable expectation is for the casting to be equal in diversity to that audience and worldview, meaning the US populace. This is a measurable target that can be actively compared against, providing an empirical idea of what the status of the property (Star Wars) actually is, and what areas should be improved upon.

    This cannot be done with the individual standards of any given fan, whether its JediSmurf of The Loyal Imperial or anyone or group of others. After all, any one person's standards are equally valid, and while you could simply sample the aggregate and appeal to the amalgamated standards of the largest group out there (btw, this is presumably what Hollywood market researchers do and it results is very white productions) that is not an stance based on any sort of ethical principle.

    The illustration regarding Japan was that if an ethnically homogenous society produces a color-blind work that matches its ethnically homogenous nature no one complains, since it is merely reflective of the composition of the audience. That is opposed to said homogenous society producing a work that is actively prejudiced (which, I know quite well, it plenty common in anime too).

    The thread title, Ignorance is Bias, is actually relevant here. If a US creator produced a supposedly color-blind work that was 100% white, and simply claimed 'oh, race never even entered my thought process' that statement might actually be true, but it would still be contributing to diversity problems. If that same creator claimed 'race never entered my thought process' and the work roughly matched US demographics for the time, then any claim of bias would ring false.
     
  21. JediFreac

    JediFreac Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 7, 2002
    I'm thinking there is also the whole part where many Hispanics/Latinos in America are of part or full indigenous descent and many also have African ancestry.

    I dispute the idea that Star Wars is colorblind, though. It seems to do the same thing we do in the United States, which is to declare all human physical variations equal and colorblind, yet continue to show major disparities in representation. Star Wars notes that twi'leks with different skin tones are treated differently but won't cop that humans are also statistically skewed, too.

    I've seen anime that is more diverse than Star Wars, and that's, as you said, coming from a society that is much more homogeneous than the United States. I would also argue that people do in fact "complain" in a lot of ways. One indirect way is through whitewashing anime characters, which happens a lot both via fandom and Hollywood.

    I don't think a claim of bias would necessarily ring false. We're not just talking quantity, right? We are also talking quality... So if, for example, half the characters were women that would about match the demographics, but that doesn't mean the representation of these characters would be without bias. You can meet measurable targets and still do a crap job. Everyone is biased, but if you're ignorant of it, you're also going to fail to actively check it.

    I have yet to see any author who writes for the EU say a) race never entered my thought process and b) actually have their characters match US demographics in any way.
     
  22. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    And thousands of white characters. I suspect that if you actually look at the percentage of black humans among all primary characters, the movies' two or three blow the EU out of the water.

    Guys, I'm curious - how exactly does one define what audience, globally speaking, a media product is produced "for"? We keep talking about SW being "intended" for Americans like it's a given, but I'm not so sure. Given that the SW movies (and books, for the most part) are released internationally, what do we mean, exactly, when we say it's produced for an American audience?

    It mirrors Western culture, I get that, it's in American English, I get that, but almost everything is. Maybe a better way to put it is, if Star Wars isn't intended for a global audience, I can't think of anything that is.
     
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  23. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    After a gentle reminder nudge, Jennifer is currently offering her thoughts on my FB post. She's responding a bit at a time, so I'll give her some time before cross-posting anything.
     
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  24. Esg

    Esg Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    So is Adi now because TCW
     
  25. CeiranHarmony

    CeiranHarmony Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    wait till they make Corellians aliens.. Adi was a corellian once... long ago.