Blake Leitch is a writer from Auckland’s North Shore who recently graduated from Massey University with a degree in journalism. He also recently graduated the Be. Leadership programme. In this week’s guest blog, he shares his thoughts on how we create, and define, diversity.
Creating diversity is no easy task; if it were, we would not still have countless organisations and people trying to create a world where all are seen as equal. If diversification were simple, it would have been accomplished a long time ago.
Unfortunately, we all know a day of global diversification is still a long way off. Despite endless attempts to create such an idealistic world, the world is still not willing to be ideal. So what is the problem? What needs fixing?
Before I say what I am to say below, let me explain from the outset that I am not claiming to know all the answers or even any of the answers. I am not a soothsayer and I do not have a crystal ball. I simply know what I see and know what happens time and time again.
Something I have observed over the last three or four months is the amount of festivals catering to the disability community. While this is a level of self-imposed segregation, I do think that it’s a good idea for those who would not be able to get their material seen otherwise. For the time being, it’s simply a case of making the best of a bad situation.
However, the problem here lies in the ways some of these festivals are promoted. While many keep their promotion simple and accurate, many use phrases such as ‘different abilities’, ‘all abilities’, ‘inclusive’, etc. Don’t get me wrong; these are phrases which we hope will one day be the norm. However, these phrases are by no means an accurate depiction of the festivals.
So many of these festivals are purely or heavily focused on various arts that would not receive recognition in a less disability-focused sphere. I’m not saying that these arts are bad or lesser, just that this is a niche market with a niche input for a niche audience. The problem lies in the many phrases used to describe the all-encompassing nature of the festival.
The simple and difficult fact of the matter is that these festivals are not all-encompassing, these festivals are not inclusive, these festivals do not display all different abilities. There seems to be a fear of naming a disability festival a ‘disability festival’, a fear of language preventing outsiders from coming in. That is fair enough, but lying doesn’t solve the problem.
Trying to create an idea that these festivals are all-encompassing is nice, but it is not truth. The more we do this kind of thing, the more words like ‘inclusive’ and ‘diverse’ become a synonym of ‘disabled’. That’s not how to create diversification; that’s how you increase the space for segregation.
If we want to remove this segregation, we are the ones that are going to have to take charge. We are left with the option of either calling these disability festivals ‘disability festivals’, or truly making these festivals truly all-encompassing. Both are dangerous options and there is no way to know which way will succeed.
However, what is far more dangerous is creating new ways to label ourselves so that events and festivals and shows and art are continued to be tucked away in our little niche corner of the world. If we truly want to be taken seriously, we have to be the ones that make change. If we truly want to be seen as normative human beings, we have to be the ones who redefine ‘normative’.
Each month DPSN features one or more guest bloggers with a unique take on diversity. We also repost relevant blogs from other sites, with permission. If you’d like to write for DPSN, or know someone you think we should contact, please email firstname.lastname@example.org