“You Will Be Tokenized”: Speaking Out About the State of Diversity in Publishing 

Where are we going? I spoke to fifty people across the book world—from emerging and established writers to agents to editors to publicists to critics, from lit mags to MFA programs to mainstream media to small presses to the Big Five publishing houses—in an effort to feel out this answer, as well as document the lived reality of working inside a monoculture.

What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood* (*If you’re not a straight, white man)

The statistics are unequivocal: Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in front of and behind the camera. Here, 27 industry players reveal the stories behind the numbers — their personal experiences of not feeling seen, heard or accepted, and how they pushed forward. In Hollywood, exclusion goes far beyond #OscarsSoWhite. (Interviews have been edited and condensed.)

It’s 2016 and it is still a struggle. I am statistically almost halfway through my life and I continue to notice whenever an Asian person shows up in pop culture. I continue to celebrate work that doesn’t continue stereotypes and I continue to hide my hurt whenever it is very clear that people of color are not wanted.

We can go a step further and look at some cabinet appointments that seemed to be made in spite of a yawning lack of merit, such as two climate change deniers (Peter Kent and Leona Aglukkaq) as environment minister, men in charge of women’s issues (Lloyd Axworthy), non-veterans withholding benefits while tasked with Veterans Affairs (Julian Fantino), and the legion of non-Aboriginal people screwing up the Department of Indian Affairs.

As Maclean’s political editor Paul Wells points out, the precise definition of the term “merit” is debatable. You can have a brilliant person, but if they’re a “pure son of a bitch,” where do they fit?

How leaders connect and get along with their appointed colleagues is, of course, very important. But if you’re constantly hiring friends or friends of friends from a small pool of people who look like you and come from similar backgrounds, then you’re choosing from an increasingly shallow and unrepresentative pool. You’ll play the same sports, perhaps never noticing how many of you are white, upper middle class, and male.

This whole debate is infuriating because the issue of meritocracy only seems to come up when the capital-e Establishment, mostly a population of well-connected white men, find themselves suddenly at the slightest risk of losing their historical stranglehold on power. #

“Zara, honey, I’m so glad you feel that way,” I told her. “But do you realize that you’re not white?”

Stunned silence.

And then: rage. “I am white!” she shouted. “You’re white!”

“Yes,” I told her. “I’m white, so you are part white. But Daddy is from Pakistan. He’s brown. And that means that, in those times, you would have been considered brown, not white.”

“I am white!” Zara wailed. “I’m everything!” And she burst into tears. #

Besides the implications of being told to leave a space supposedly designed for me, the rejection didn’t sit well for other reasons. Many non-profits’ promotional material focuses on presenting people of colour as the target recipient of their resources, while having very few involved in any leadership positions. This particular organization had no people of colour on the board or in any higher level roles influencing their directives, causing an obvious disconnect between the organization’s ideals and its members’ needs. As a member, you can sign up to present at monthly speakers events to showcase new work or speak about relevant community topics. Members who present are not compensated, despite the vulnerable position of sharing work from a marginalized perspective, however outside speakers who are professionally established and belong predominantly to privileged groups are often recruited to give paid presentations. #

Bragging about hiring a few people of color, or women, seems to come from the same interpretive bias, where a small amount is enough. It also puts significant pressure on the few ‘‘diverse’’ folks who are allowed into any given club, where they are expected to be ambassadors of sorts, representing the minority identity while conforming to the majority one. All this can make a person doubt the sincerity of an institution or organization — and question their place within it. When I was starting out in magazines, I was told by a colleague that my hiring was part of the company’s diversity push, and that my boss had received a significant bonus as a result of recruiting me. Whether or not it was true, it colored the next few years I spent there, making me wonder whether I was simply some sort of symbol to make the higher-ups feel better about themselves. #

Some other whitewashed movies – 21, The Bling Ring, A Beautiful Mind, A Mighty Heart, Drive, Cloud Atlas, The Hunger Games, Warm Bodies, World Trade Center, Exodus