Ava DuVernay and “diversity”
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Ava DuVernay has been at Sundance, visible and accessible just as all of Hollywood is focusing on #OscarsSoWhite and the criticism of not only the Academy Awards but also of big machine entertainment overall. As you know, Ava directed Selma which was nominated for Best Picture but ignored in other major categories. She’s been very vocal in her disappointment in the lack of representation, not just at the Oscars but throughout the industry overall.
So, this week, when asked about the diversity discussion, Ava told the New York Times that she wants to stop using that word, “diversity”:
“I hate that word so, so much. I feel it’s a medicinal word that has no emotional resonance, and this is a really emotional issue,” she said. “It’s emotional for artists who are women and people of color to have less value placed on our worldview.”
Better words? Inclusion, she said, or belonging. “There’s a belonging problem in Hollywood,” Ms. DuVernay said, “Who dictates who belongs? The very body who dictates that looks all one way.”
Click here for the full NYT piece on Ava’s perspective from Sundance.
When I read the article, I wondered if I was contributing to the problem by my consistent use of the word “diversity”. Does “diversity” divide more than it unites? Opponents of the word, like Ava, posit that diversity’s highlights segmentation and puts the focus on the “other” as opposed to supporting and encouraging acceptance and, as she puts it, belonging and inclusion. Googling the subject led me to this piece in The Atlantic about how using and repeating the word “diversity” eventually “depersonalises” those who’ve been marginalised. Click here to read it.
All of this reminded me about a high school project I was involved in about, um, “diversity”. Michael Jackson’s Black Or White had just come out. And we did a sketch during school assembly about “tolerance” and how “tolerance” is bullsh-t because it stops short of respect and ends, essentially, at putting up with something you don’t like.
Will and should “diversity” go the way of “tolerance” and be replaced by “belonging” and “inclusion”?