Thank you to everybody who took time to share their thoughts with me on the whole diversity issue. Responses were all over the map, but the most common shared points were that people would prefer APR go on and accepting submissions could help. So, keep an eye open for that. If you have other ideas or comments, as always, I’m all ears.
To start this long story, I’m horrible about checking my tumblr message box. I could generate excuses, but that’s crap. I’m just really bad at it. Why is this important? Because today I did one of my semi-bi-annual checks and found a message from fellow tumblrer-er (whatever the form of that would be) legionsofme asking why Awesome People Reading was so very very white. Then LOM stated that there are lots of people of color in the world and that they read.
Does Awesome People Reading skew heavily white? Yeah. I believe it clearly does. Certainly I have featured images of folks all over the racial, age, gender, whatever spectrum, but overall APR is definitely a little pale.
Why is APR so very white? I have no doubt some of that is a reflection of my own subjectivity. My own likes and dislikes must, I think, inevitably be shaped somewhat by my own racial experience and that, in turn, must impact who I post.
(And it’s not just a race thing. There’s clearly a bias toward figures from the English-speaking world. If you asked why I never featured, say, Belarussian authors, I’d have to honestly tell you that I didn’t know any. There’s a bias towards leftist political figures. If anybody’s curious why I’ve never posted, say, Ayn Rand, it’s because it’s my blog and I don’t like her. Because they get photographed incessantly, there’s a bias towards entertainment figures – too much of one, really, and I wish we photographed other important people half as much as we photograph actors. And so on and so on.)
Though, honestly, I think it is also a lot less than that. Long time followers already know this story, but I started APR as an exercise in using the tumblr platform. Part of my day job requires using social media, so I have to play around with various platforms and usually do this by launching temporary projects on them. APR was just such a project. But, surprisingly, APR kinda took off. So I’ve kept it going as a fun side thing I believed folks would continue to enjoy it. I can keep it going because it takes almost no effort on my part: I basically stumble across images and post them, it’s pretty low maintenance. It has to be, or I couldn’t do it. I’ve got actual responsibilities elsewhere and this tumblr, due to intellectual property laws and my own inclination, will never grow into something I could do as a gig. The lame truth is that I simply never make the effort to craft the overall representation on my tumblr because I post stuff on a picture-to-picture basis and I find these posts in a haphazard, unplanned way. This blog skews white ‘cause I’m either too lazy or too unable to dedicate time to it (take your pick) for it to be otherwise.
That said, I’m not unsympathetic to LOM’s point: I’m not exactly fighting the good fight by just following my inclinations and posting willy-nilly, allowing an unplanned but, I think, very real bias to develop in the posts.
Here’s the situation: I’m never going to have the time – nor, honestly, do I have the will – to turn APR into the sort of thing where I plan and track the posts to meet clearly defined diversity goals, however noble and worthwhile those goals are. That’s not in the cards. I couldn’t do it, even if I wanted.
So what do we do? Is there still a value in APR if all it does is represent my single worldview, with all the limitations that necessarily entails? If I can’t meet certain standards for representation, should I shut this thing down as inherently, if unintentionally, oppressive? Should I ask followers to send me links to tumblrs and other resources that expand the representation of readers in ways APR doesn’t? Other solutions? I’m open to suggestions? Let me know. I’m somewhat at a loss for ideas myself.