So I’m back on this train again but the conversations keep on happening, so I’ve got to keep on writing. After the other posts, and just my general constant conversations about diversity, an interesting and very personal topic came to light. What if you don’t want to be the ‘diverse’ one? Books like ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Renni Eddo-Lodge really address this issue in full, and incredibly well, but I’m going to throw in my two cents anyway because why not.
Sometimes, even if you are a minority, you just don’t want to talk about it anymore. Even if you have been talking about diversity constantly, and are very passionate about it, sometimes, you just need a break.
My biggest experience of this came when producing Medea in Oxford, the university’s first all BAME production, that happened to have opening night first the day the university diversity report came out. This is the report that proved ‘one in four of colleges failed to admit a single black British student each year between 2015 and 2017’ (read full article here). Yes – register that for a second because that was a legitimate actual thing. Now things have changed at the university (these figures are nearly two years old) but that is what I was facing. We had to talk, day in day out, about the experience of being a POC at Oxford and it was absolutely exhausting. We were made into spokespeople for what seemed like the whole university, without really signing up to be anything of the sort. We were asked massive questions about how we would approach institutional changes that I knew not a thing about.
Worst of all though, for a long time, I was spoken to as ‘brown person’ first, and then Shivaike after. And that’s often necessary when you’re talking about race, and speaking about diversity as a whole. But as a person, it becomes very easy to feel completely lost when being always spoken to and looked at as ‘brown person’. You feel that it becomes all that defines you, and it is so exhausting to have to constantly talk about how oppressed you are or how the institution is working against you or how racist people can be. Sometimes, like everyone else, you’ve just got to get through the day.
My point is that, just as we need to fight for diversity and we need to constantly push for achieving recognition, sometimes, we need to leave each other alone. Sometimes, that LGBTQ+ person or POC or whatever they are, doesn’t want to be that label. They don’t want to be the ‘diverse’ one or the ‘different’ one. They don’t want to feel like they have the weight of a community on their shoulders, and they don’t want to feel like they are fighting for some cause. Sometimes, they just want to be an individual going about their day and getting through whatever they need to. Maybe they aren’t even ‘getting through’ anything, they just simply want to live their own lives.
Equally, everyone isn’t up to talking about diversity. Not ever POC is interested in it, or feels the drive to talk about it. Not everyone has been equipped with the tools and the information to go forward and try to drive change. And frankly, not everyone wants to. Just like a white person likes to wake up and go about their day free of questions about race, so can a POC want exactly the same thing.
Most importantly, this is also why we shouldn’t be the only people talking about race. It’s tiring, and often can feel quite degrading, always talking about how you struggle. Especially when you are forced to do it, day in day out. If everyone begins to take up the mantle, and recognise around them the struggles faced by so many, POCs and LGBTQ+ people won’t be the only one’s forced to drive the change. The pressure will be lifted off us, and more can go about their own lives without feeling guilty that change isn’t happening. Just remember, not everyone wants to talk about race and not everyone wants to be the ‘diverse’ one.
“Demands for equality need to be as complicated as the inequalities they seek to address.” – Renni Eddo-Lodge