on “diversity for diversity’s sake”
So let’s talk about race in Homestuck.
Andrew Hussie has said in the past that he believes the Homestuck kids can be read as any race, and that he intended to write them that way. He’s said this, and I believe him! I don’t think Hussie of all people would lie about his ~artistic intentions~, least of all as vehemently as he did during the initial tumblr furor over the “aracial” comments.
So Hussie envisioned the kids as aracial, or at least he didn’t conceive of them as or strongly associate them with any particular race. And yet, scattered throughout Homestuck are (or were) numerous indications to the contrary: descriptions of the kids as “pink-skinned,” a now-altered pesterlog where John refers to Bro as “a nerdy white guy who is a rapper,” the curious problem of heirs to a baking empire. You add all these little instances up, and they seem to point to one conclusion—that Hussie did not, in fact, imagine the kids as some nebulous “any race.” He had an image of them, a particular appearance, a particular race, and in all likelihood that race was white.
Now, I just said I didn’t think he was lying! And I don’t, in fact, think he was lying—I think all of what I have just written above is true. In other words,
- When Andrew Hussie sits back and thinks about the entire comic, in aggregate, and his vision for it, he can honestly say, “Yeah, I didn’t intend the kids to be any particular race. They can look however you want.”
- That regardless, whenever he had to call those kids’ faces to mind, to come up with a funny reference or an alien observation, the face he called up was always, always, white.
Why is that?
I’ll tell you a story: I wrote a lot, as a kid and a teenager. I liked to make up stories, and I liked to imagine myself in those stories; most of my old work stars girls my age or a little older—heavily aspirational stuff. I wrote about headstrong girls who went on adventures; and witty, irreverent girls who did wild things; and serious girls who solved the world’s problems. And—very occasionally, those girls were literally me, but if they weren’t? They were invariably white. I imagined them as such. I described them as such.
In other words, I wrote about girls, because I was a girl; and I wrote about white people, even though I am not, myself, white.
There are a lot of PoC who will tell you this same story.
Why is that?
I have seen a lot of criticism of self-conscious diversity, “insincere” diversity, “diversity for diversity’s sake,” both in this fandom and elsewhere. It’s great if you just happen to come up with black or Asian or Native characters, these people believe, but if you have to think about it? If you deliberately choose to write or rewrite your stories to be diverse, or draw a character lineup with an eye toward not making it too white? Well, that’s just weird. That’s wrong, in fact.You’re trying too hard—you should just tell your stories, draw the characters, as you naturally envision them. Why would you do anything else?
The problem with this line of thinking is that what we “naturally envision” is often not natural at all: it is a reflection of a world which has been fed to us by an advertising industry that is frequently racist, by popular media which regularly erases or sidelines entire classes of people. The books and magazines we read, the TV shows and movies we watch, overwhelmingly tell the stories of white people. And so, when we go to tell our own stories, with our own characters, we invariably imagine them as white. Even, sometimes, when we don’t mean it.
We have locked ourselves into a poisonous cycle. White in, white out.
And that cycle will continue to perpetuate until we stop putting only white in! People like me will only begin to see ourselves in the stories we love when people start including us in those stories. People, individual people, a lot of individual people, will have to change. The things they write will have to change.
And yes, often that change is a deliberate choice—not to suddenly start portraying characters “the way you saw them all along,” but to rethink the way you saw them in the first place. To come back to your main character and consider, well, what if she were black?; to look at your old drawings and wonder whether they all really have to be white. To begin defining a new “natural” for yourself, one which more accurately reflects the world that is actually around you.
Why is that a bad thing?
What is the problem with “diversity for diversity’s sake”? Isn’t diversity an inherent good?
To close out: I don’t care if you don’t want to “be the change” in this specific manner, at this specific time. I really, truly do not give a fuck. It doesn’t affect my opinion of you. But when you turn around and sneer at people who are trying, who are undertaking the long and often difficult process of changing the way they were programmed to think, who are doing their level best to reflect the diversity of the world in the things they create, large and small—well.
Yeah, I am going to judge you for that. I think that’s gross as fuck.
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