I wrote this blog post last week before the article “Why is Canadian Television So White?” by Kathleen Newman-Brebang was posted. For everyone who responded that yes, Canadian television has a problem and wondering what they as an individual can do about it – well here are some ideas. Now seems the right time to post this. Also – because racial credentials have to be laid out on the table these days – I am a white passing multi-racial Canadian. I acknowledge my privilege and my responsibility and I try to act on it.
Most of the time we look at Diversity and Inclusion from an industry perspective. How can we make the film/tv/IDM industry more diverse and ensure that a wide range of people with differing perspectives and backgrounds can maintain careers in these industries. We look at telling stories from underserved communities and advancing casting that reflects our reality. As with other big societal shifts like the climate crisis, people may think that they as one individual cannot make a difference. Just like recycling, you too can impact the world around you and help make our screen industries more diverse and inclusive through taking little steps each day. Here are a few suggestions:
- Are you in a position to hire employees or freelancers? Extend your search beyond your usual network. Let people know that you are looking for candidates from underserved communities/trying to diversify your team. Take a risk on promising but less experienced people who may be having a hard time getting their foot in the door. Take a risk on experienced people who you don’t know. I’ll say it again – extend your search beyond your usual network.
- Mentor people from underserved communities. How can you find them? One way is to talk to friends who teach. Colleges are always looking for industry advisors and mentors. Last year I was one of three industry people who sat in on children’s web series marketing plan presentations and two of the students approached me about mentoring. One (a black woman) is still in touch. It takes minimal time to give feedback and insights when asked.
- Amplify voices from underserved communities. Depending on what you do and where you are you can do this in many different ways. You can follow talent from underserved communities on social media and RT them, favourite them, engage with them and help them build a network and a place in the larger community. Champion their creative work, give notes so that their work can improve and let them know about opportunities. As an audience member you can read books, watch movies and tv shows and web series from emerging talent and share them to your network.
- Champion projects that you think are doing a good or great job when it comes to diversity and inclusion. I love “Coroner” not just because it is good story telling but because the world that the (diverse) creative team has created reflects the Toronto that I see around me every day. (Just one example from the first season – white, black, Asian and south Asian characters are eating dim sum on a picnic table in Kensington and all are eating with chopsticks and that’s not part of the story). It doesn’t have a check box feel to it like some prime time dramas do. So I tell people why I love it. Like right now.
- Read articles and tweets about representation, diversity, inclusion and equity. Check out my blog post if you’re not up on the meaning of those terms and how they differ. Follow both experts and fans. For example, I learned that there is a hashtag #SWRepresentation for discussions about Star Wars representation in the stories across the different platforms. One of the most effective things that I’ve done to better understand Indigenous issues on an ongoing basis was to follow the “Indian Horse” #Next150 challenge to “Diversify Your News” by following Indigenous journalists on Twitter. Get outside your bubble and hear different perspectives.
- Explore the creative material (tv, films, books, games) from other cultures and voices from backgrounds different from your own. Then follow your favourites on social media. I love the writing of Nnedi Okorafor. Following her on Twitter led me to N.K. Jemesin, which then led me to Tomi Adeyemi and I am now a huge fan of black female scifi/fantasy writers.
- Let these new voices filter into your perspective. Without even trying it will happen. Then one day you’ll find yourself reviewing a script and wondering why all the speaking parts have been described as white people. Or that all the nominees for an award are white. Then it’s your job to speak out and make change.