Answers. Solutions. Diversity.
I’m sick of talking about them. Which isn’t to say I’m at an end of caring about them. But what are we really talking about? Who is in the conversation? And do we mean it?
A friend, who is much smarter than me, recently re-framed how I was talking about diversity. The word itself has become a buzzword that we throw around, it starts to sound like an option on a menu. An added extra. Like we order the regular, normal, crowd, and then for an extra pound or dollar we can add diversity or chilli fries. Instead, my friend suggested, I should think about representation.
We’re not talking about the nice idea of adding an optional extra to the menu, we’re talking about re-writing the menu to reflect the world around us. We’re asking for books, for conventions, for writer organisations, and for publishing companies that represent the world as it is.
You know another word that gets used frequently? Privilege. And in this case, privilege means that I keep being asked what I think the solutions are. What are my opinions. My ideas. What would I fix? I had a go at fixing some of them. I’ve offered suggestions to other people who are still trying. Even in a conversation that starts from a point of trying to invite more people to the table, being the straight white man means I’m programmed to offer the answers, and the conversation always makes room for my voice. And that’s seductive. It’s powerful. It can convince well-meaning people that their intentions are the most important thing. And it’s easy to become blind to being part of the problem. Easy to forget that you’re still a group full of white people talking about what writers of colour need, or a room full of straight people talking about what LGBTQ+ writers need. Because we’re right and because we mean well.
Do I understand how bad decisions get made? Yes. I’ve been in the room for some of them. Can I understand how, in the current #MeToo climate, we might think it’s a great idea to honour a woman with a history of prosecuting sex offenders? Sure. Can I understand how those good intentions will then blind us to other issues? How we will tune out the voices who come from a different experience? Sadly, yes. We too often can’t look past ourselves, of deciding we get to decide the priorities. Intersectionality has been talked into the ground in SFF, Horror, RPG, and has been the source of great arguments in comics and video games. Do we talk about it in crime fiction? Are we conscious of how we use our ears? Of who we listen to?
It’s not about my solutions. It’s not about my answers. It’s about listening.
Our intentions are pointless unless we’re listening. Unless we’re making sure that we listen to all voices, no matter how new they are in the room. Unless we’re actively going out and listening to people who aren’t even in the room, who don’t know where the door is.
Who is in the conversation? Whose questions are being listened to? Whose experiences are being taken into account? Who are we listening to?
I’m sick of talking, I’m sick of being asked my opinions. I want to listen.