I am white. Let’s just get that out of the way in case you were wondering. I grew up in Houston where diversity of culture and color wasn’t much of an issue. Houston is diverse. I didn’t grow up with (much) prejudice. Elizabeth (Native American) and Wen (Chinese) were among my circle of friends, as was a guy name Neil from Holland.
Then, I moved to a small town where African Americans STILL live on the “other side of the tracks.”
I was in the middle of my fourth grade year. As a later comer in the school year I was stuck in the “naughty” class…where (I chide you not) almost ALL of the people of different ethnicities were “kept.” Assumed troublemakers.
The teacher was a grouchy white lady. She HATED me. Actually…she hated all the children. I have no clue why she was a teacher.
I quickly became BFFs with two Hispanic girls, Jennifer and Marianne. Little did I know that I was being “watched” and dubbed as a troublemaker, too. I was the white girl who hung out with (gasp) Mexicans!
Ya’ll think I’m kidding. But I assure you…I’m totally not. This was in 1990 not 1930.
After a horrible run-in with the crotchety old teacher, my mom swiftly pulled me out of her class and I was put in a classroom full of white people and few Mexican-Americans.
Because of the way classes were separated I didn’t see my two Latino friends much during school and became friends with another white girl, Melanie. I was safe again. Not a troublemaker. Even at 10 years old, I could sense this. No one told me these things. No one had to. It was THAT obvious.
As the years passed by the racism dispersed a little…at least for some.
But in a town where the segregated school still stands as a solemn reminder of what used to be, I can’t imagine the constant burden felt by my African American sisters and brothers.
(Jesus help us!)
Then I moved to Austin for college and the diversity wasn’t much better, but at least the amount of outright bigotry was better than my small town.
I took Journalism classes on diversity and learned how messy the issue of race still is to this day. I learned how much opinions vary regardless of race: Some people see no issue, some see the bright side, some people live and die by their burden to erase all inequality and some people are just angry.
Just ask people what the PC term for Mexican American is…Latino? Mexican American? Hispanic? Mexican? The response is as diverse as the people you ask.
But as a blogger, author, web/graphic designer and Christian where does this leave me?
I have come to the conclusion that I can only do so much. I cannot change the world at large. I can only change me. When I choose photos for a website, I try to look for all races, sexes and ages.
That said, I am increasingly frustrated at the lack of diversity STILL in stock photography.
I’m sure I’m biased. If I initially choose a photo white woman…it’s because I’m a white woman. I’m not immune to some semblance of racism. I just pray that I can do my best to ensure that I’m not part of the problem…however flawed my attempts may be.
I recently did a book promo and I struggled to find more photos of moms and babies of different colors. Don’t get me wrong…they exist. Some really beautiful photos, too. But when I search for “mom baby” I disproportionately see white people.
You can see the photos I used in my YouTube video below this post…And yes I used a white baby for the cover of my ebook. Partly because of the facial expression of the child, partly because as a white woman (surrounded by six white children) it’s what I’m used to seeing all day long and partly because there were just sooo many more white babies to choose from!
But stock photography isn’t the only example. Look at your list of popular TV Dramas on Netflix…white people.
Advertising still displays more white people than any other color.
White people are more likely to be represented, and in a positive light, than blacks or Asians in Canadian television advertisements, says a new study from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). (Source)
This report came out in August 2013…not even a year ago. And I have to ask…STILL???
In 2011, The Guardian reports that “only 5% of TV ads feature ethnic minorities.” (Source)
The list goes on and on….so I’ll stop. Just Google it and you’ll find a zillion articles touching on the subject.
But what does this mean for you and me? How can we change things?
The answer is simple. Be aware.
That’s it…be aware of your prejudice.
If you are a blogger like me…make sure you make an effort to choose diverse photos. If you are a writer…study other cultures, write about non-white characters.
I recently went to the Re:Write Conference in October and a brilliant man, George Barna (founder of the Barna Group), said that research shows people are tired of reading about the first world plights of middle class white people.
As a writer, we must take heed.
Start to take note of the disproportionality of races on magazine covers and pray for equality to be shown. Be vigilant.
You don’t have to change the world in one fatal move…but a series of purposeful attempts at making YOU less narrow.
I’m sure my book promo could be better. Maybe I chose too many “young’ looking women…I mean there ARE women above 25 that are having their first baby, right? Next time…next time. I will increasingly get better at becoming someone that is free of the sin of racism/agism/sexism in my ministry.
That I may live by the scriptures that say:
There is no longer Jew or Gentile,slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
So help me God.
****The day after I posted this blog, a friend posted on her blog Wheelchair Mommy about the need for diversity of stock photos for those with disabilities. I LOVED her take on this issue. Check it out here >>> Photoability: Mother’s Day photo Collection