It's a simple question and the answer never seems to be easy and straight forward but is it really that complex?
Maybe. But probably not.
Before I discuss too much it's important to know some back story about me. My mother is white and my father is black. When I was a toddler my father left my family and my brother and I were raised by my mother. We didn't live a luxurious life but I never felt like we were just surviving or scraping by. I have so many happy memories from childhood and in a situation where I could have ended up a much different person, I believe my mom really gave us the tools to be good people and to succeed. To me a family are the people around you who encourage you and teach you. They are there when things are rough and with you when everything is great. My mom showed me that family is more than you all being the same color, or what your sexual orientation is or what your religion is. It's about loving who you are and each other.
So it came to a surprise to me when people would ask if we were her biological children. Or when people would stare at us in public like we were some kind of monsters. Granted, growing up in in a little rural town in kansas isn't going to foster the most diverse people but to me I was taught in school that racism and xenophobia was a thing of the past. So I would normally brush it off. Just simple people with smaller minded views.
I was wrong.
From fielding questions growing up ranging from innocent curiosity to flat out racism I learned that maybe I was indeed different. That I didn't belong. From cruel family members saying our father left us because that's what black men do or that me being laid back is a genetic predisposition from my black heritage where all black people are lackadaisical and indifferent. From kids asking funny questions like is my spit/blood black (this had to be in 3rd or 4th grade) to the more unscrupulous side where a kid would call you nigger or ask if you knew you were inferior to them (according to his parents). Questions like this really make you question your worth. No matter how strong your character is, this will slowly chip away at you.
Boy did it, for a long time actually. For a couple years in high school just felt like I was competing on an unfair field and the people around me no longer were my peers. In a small town in kansas, if you don't have a father around, your male role models are limited. Especially if you are a person of color. So when I hear people complain about hollywood having more diversity it baffles me.
To me diversity is diverse people telling stories inspired from their unique experiences. Its not as simple as a gender or sex swap. Being more diverse doesn't threaten to take anything away from white people. Diversity helps that little child who feels ostracized know that the world is much bigger and brighter than they can see. When we enable people to tell their stories, or create world's without the standard male white guy as the protagonist, we are inspiring an inclusive culture where people of different voices and backgrounds can be heard.
So I try to live by that credo. I try to keep an open mind and be friendly and find optimism during the hard times. I am an artist in a field dominated by white men, but that only encourages me to keep telling my story and sharing my art. If i truly want to be a positive role model and encourage and help grow future leaders I have to set the precedent by being an empathetic person and always challenge the social norm.
Well, just some thoughts ive been having but i encourage you to listen to your POC friends and just allow them to share their gifts to the world. The easiest thing you can do is be silent and support them.