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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Soapbox: Wanted...Universal Ethnicity

I am white.  It's not my fault.  It's not my accomplishment.  It is my birth.  I live in Maine, a predominantly white state, although with a surpisingly rich diversity in some areas of the state. I love Maine for many reasons, none of which is ethnicity.  I am delighted to see greater diversity here now than when I was first raising children and worried about the narrow variety around them. But I am aware of some challenges to an area with reduced diversity.

This is my problem.  As a parenting educator and a blogger I want my materials to reflect the diversity of my readers and my audiences.  But, when I go online or elsewhere to search for diverse images to use, I find mostly white images. Some things are easier. I can almost always find mixed ethnicities for kids playing on playgrounds, or some choices of parents reading to kids. But search breakfast in bed images or something like that and it is much harder.

I also find myself being sensitive and concerned about reactions.  I am more comfortable showing a white child for a depression image or homeless image, than a different ethnicity. Same for images of arguments or other negatives.  I find myself tiptoeing.

One of my children used to teach diversity workshops and would talk about the impact of ethnic slurs in jokes and language origins.  She used to say that the first part of most ethnic jokes is not the first line, but looking around to see who's listening.

Sidenote: Race or ethnicities are not the only concerns. It is the whole range of variations of human condition. As someone with a handicap I was thrilled the first time I saw tv characters using a cane [like the dr. in ER and the m.e. on CSI] where the cane was NOT part of the story, just a "coincidence" of the person [rather than House's cane and condition which are central to the story]. I am still pleased when a character appears in a wheelchair with no comment or "reason" other than that the character happens to be in a wheelchair.  

So, I hope someday we can post pictures and view images without worrying about whether they may provoke unwanted, unintended implications. When ethnicity is so broad and available and commonplace that it becomes invisible, unnoticed.  Martin Luther King Jr spoke of a time when everybody is invited to the table... I long for a time when everyone's place at the table is so commonplace that we no longer count heads. When inclusion is so given that we no longer have to think about it or check to be sure.

Until then, be patient with me. Post pictures of more variety online. And dream with me of the future.

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