If America is a land of immigrants characterized by “diversity,” how do we represent ourselves to ourselves?
Prior to the 1960s, Americans were represented in advertising and the popular media as white, without shame or self-consciousness. After that, a black presence came to be increasingly obligatory, often in the form of a single black person added to an otherwise white group. This was normally done with the very best of intentions, though in doing so whites would often find themselves then accused of “tokenism.” Does anyone remember the character Franklin in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts?
Now, all bets are off. One thing we can be sure of is that to portray an all-white group of people is to open oneself to the charge of “racism” by advocates for various non-white ethnic groups, and by whites themselves. Such was the case when Vanity Fair recently ran a photo feature on actresses it deemed the “fresh faces” of Hollywood, and daringly (or doltishly) failed to include any women of “color” in the lineup:
Most Americans seem to accept the “diversity” presented to them on the walls of Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Target and on numerous pamphlets by government agencies and insurance companies, not to mention the majority of TV advertisements, as a positive thing. I used to feel this way myself, back when the “minority” population of the United States was still only 15% or so, and I hadn’t realized that it was growing at rates that would eventually make minorities the majority. When I noticed, for example, how judges were being represented all out of proportion to reality as black and female, my thought was something like: “This may not reflect reality, but it shows black people that we welcome them in these roles, and it represents an ideal we all aspire to.” I suppose many people think similar things today about the far more advanced ideal of diversity that reigns today, especially since the minorities really are growing very strong in numbers and, seemingly, can’t be ignored.
I no longer think, though, that the ideal of “diversity” is positive, or even harmless. The reason is that to put the ideal in visual or artistic form requires the suppression of the deep, enduring differences between the various ethnic groups in America today and the relentless conflicts, trauma, and expense associated with their co-existence in the same society. These differences and conflicts will only continue to grow with the ongoing transformation of America into a white-minority society. No one taking any account of trends in social ills like crime, terrorism, and illegitimacy, or of the increasing dysfunction of our educational and political institutions, can deny that “diversity” has extracted a serious toll on our national well-being.
In any event, the ideal of diversity is manifested in some peculiar and inconsistent ways in the media. It can be amusing to note some of the practices that have emerged. To name a few:
1) Local news anchors. Where I live, the combination of one black man and one white woman, or one black woman and one white man, has long been virtually de rigeur. (In CNN and other national media outlets, Hispanic and even Asian and Indian ethnicities are increasingly represented, and this has trickled down to the local level to an extent.) Black people might find “tokenism” objectionable, but when the total number of the group is only two, the requirement that one be black is disproportionately empowering.
2) The light-skinned or biracial black woman, often with the unthreateningly frizzy hair. Only a minority of black women look like this in real life, but you wouldn’t know this from advertisements.
3) The figure clearly intended to be identified as Hispanic, who simultaneously looks so “white” that you could never prove that intention. In reality, most Hispanics here in the U.S. are clearly identifiable as Mestizo or Amerindian. One way acceptance of “Hispanic-ness” is being foisted on us is by surrounding us with images of lots of tannish-looking people who are plausibly white. Didn’t Americans always look like this? Well…no. By the way, my wife says that the “nude” color for women’s underclothing in the U.S. has become noticeably tanner in recent years.
4) Images of people of certain ethnic groups in roles clearly contradicting our image of those groups in real life. There is a very amusing poster at my local YMCA showing three children or youths performing physical activities. There is a black boy swimming, an Asian boy playing basketball, and an Asian girl lifting weights. Each one is doing precisely the thing you’d expect him to be poor at. Incidentally there is no white person present at all.
5) The panel, ensemble, or other group, of which each member comes from a different ethnic group. An example would be the early lineup of “The View,” with a black, white, Jewish, and Asian member (there seems not to be an Asian in the current lineup). Or, consider the quartet of musicians who played at the Obama inauguration: Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, Itzhak Perlman, and Anthony McGill. Wonderful musicians; I begrudge them nothing. But I do remember someone at the National Review writing something like “Do you suppose they were picked for their ethnicity? I sure hope not!” OF COURSE they were chosen for their ethnicity.
The reader will certainly be able to think of other permutations.
Informally enforced diversity in advertising and the media may only be a minor issue for most people: at times unnoticeable, at times annoying, at times amusing. But it reflects a deeply oppressive power at work that forces us to constantly think about all the “others” in our society, something which I believe affects our ability to simply be ourselves and, on that basis, to live the best lives we can and to create the best society we can. Lawrence Auster put it well in his pamphlet The Path to National Suicide, when he discussed the future of art in a multicultural society:
As the image of our civilization, as expressed in the arts and literature, changes to a multiracial, multicultural image, what kind of art will result? Movies and plays, instead of portraying the relationships of individuals within a community or family, as drama has done time out of mind, must focus self-consciously on race relations. Established literary works that have formed a living bridge between one generation of Americans and the next will fall into oblivion, to be replaced by works on minority, Hispanic and Asian issues. The religious paintings of the multiculturalist society, instead of portraying a group of individuals chosen from the artists’ imagination, would follow a statistical formula; the figures gathered around the Christ child would have to be x percent brown, x percent black, yellow, white and so on, all chosen on the basis of racial balance rather than their individual character. Diversity would so overwhelm unity that the idea of diversity within unity would be lost.
Though it may be easier to go with the flow, I can’t accept the culture we Americans are now being presented with. It all starts with immigration, and though it may seem that the “horse is out of the barn” with respect to Hispanic and other non-European immigration, we must continue to resist this colonization of the United States which now continues clearly for the benefit of the groups coming in, not those already here. And whatever the results may be, we traditional Americans are going to have to find a way to live in our own society so we can be ourselves. It starts with refusing to accept the status quo, and challenging it wherever and however we can.