I never gave two cents about diversity in much anything when I was a kid and teenager. “If it doesn’t affect me, why should I care” was my attitude. Let’s face, why would it affect me. I’m a straight, white, cis male of European descent. Furthermore, I was a skinny kid.
I also grew up in a town that had few minorities. There was not a large black population where I grew up and the Hispanic and Asian communities were non-existent. There were no discussions of diversity until I became an adult.
When I taught in public school in New Orleans, it home to me how diversity mattered. I remember bringing up Star Wars to describe something, and the kids didn’t understand the reference. It wasn’t because of their age either. It was because the movie didn’t speak to them about their lives. But since it was school, I didn’t really delve further into it.
The more I’ve embraced my nerdom, the more I ran into all kinds of fans. The more I became interested in their stories. Reading blogs by people of color and discussing diversity at cons, the more I understood how difficult it is for some people to feel part of something. It wasn’t just that characters didn’t look or talk like them that made them feel excluded. It was also the fandoms itself that did this. I’ve seen on more than one occasion a male Star Wars fan trying to explain something to my wife about the saga. I always feel sorry for them, because my wife is strongwilled and doesn’t hold back. She definitely doesn’t need me to be her white night. However, for introverts, this might not come as naturally.
Particularly useful was the hashtag #swrepmatters. Stories from people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and people from different body types opened my eyes to how the Star Wars fandom is approached from different people. It taught me how people felt when they saw a person that looked like them on screen and actually had something to do.
I seriously could write a dissertation about how much I learned from reading the posts with that hashtag. I wrote one that was similar to this blog. However, as much as I want to speak about diversity, in the end, I better serve the movement by listening. The “white savior” trope is all too familiar to people who don’t look like me.
I could say I’m interested in this topic because I have a daughter and I want her to be able to enjoy any fandom she wants without feeling excluded. More importantly, I want to enjoy the fandom without the creepiness that a lot of women have to go through. But, I’m going to be selfish. I want to learn more because it is better for me. It makes me a better person.
The more I listen the more I learn. The more I learn the more I can become an ally.