What Diversity Needs: On Video Games and STEM Education
So this semester one of the things that I have been doing (in my ample free time) is working on a diversity grant proposal to fund a tech/games/STEM based summer program for young girls of color. As I have been thinking through the minutiae of the project I have been forced to think about the best ways to describe to others both what I think diversity is and what we need as a society in order to promote diversity. And (probably) because of the nature of the genre that I am writing in I am thinking in bullet points, so let’s go from those to look at what it is that I think diversity needs.
- What it doesn’t need is segregation.
Diversity doesn’t require, need, or want segregation. Segregation doesn’t allow for dialogue between people of different races, genders, sexes, etc. Complete segregation can serve as an incubator for racism, sexism, transphobia, etc.
- What it does need is incubation.
While this may seem to be counter to what I just said in the point above, diversity does need incubation. Incubation of individuals. We need to provide marginalized and oppressed people with a safe space in which to explore, discuss, and build their identities. We need this space so that they can grow unfettered by the opinions of those whose goal it has been to operate as the oppressor (intentionally or not). For the purposes of the project that I am working on, bringing girls of color together to work and learn can give them the knowledge and the strength to work in a traditionally homogeneous environment that is known for being hostile toward women (and people of color in general).
- What it needs is for folks to understand
We need for people around us to understand. Understand when we need to be alone. Understand when to talk and when to listen. Know when to say I understand what you are saying and why change is imperative without trying to compare problems. Know when to let go of the white guilt and stop trying to excuse or justify privilege and just know that it exists and that they benefit from it instead trying to ignore or deny it.
I have been sitting and pouring over these grant documents for the last couple of weeks and trying to get them to make sense to committee of folks who are probably going to be less receptive to it than I would like to think they would naturally be. And through this process I see that what we are asking for is not unreasonable. I see that what we are asking for can make the experiences that women are having in and around the tech and games community now less violent (or in a utopian society, non-existent). If we can build a community of women and people of color in STEM then we will hopefully see a change in those industries and the media that they produce. These changes will hopefully produce a change in the people in the consumer communities around them. So in some odd way this is another way that I see the work that we do here at NYMG and in the real world communities around us seeping into (more like permeating) the work that I do in my more traditional academic life as well. Odd and convoluted as it sounds (kinda like a chicken and an egg), this is what we are working toward, (re)building industries and communities with more diverse foundations so that they don’t continue to perpetuate and incubate the prejudice and hatred that we currently see at play within them.