Monday, November 07, 2016

Broken Pipelines

One of the things that has interested me is that in entering the late night comedy/news space, both Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah have worked to get a writer's room that looks a little different. Trevor Noah talked with NPR about looking at the first batch of resumes and saying, so great, but how do we get more people who aren't just like the ones on the staff already.  And they told him, this is all we got.  So he talked to friends and other folks he know from the comedy circuit and they didn't have agents, didn't have a way to make these submissions.  So they opened things back up and ended up with more people, because as Noah said, he didn't want to cover a story about Muslim people, or female people, or Asian people, and not have anyone like that in the room. 
Similarly Samantha Bee did a blind application process where they provided a clear template for what a writing sample should look like, so that access to institutional knowledge was less of a barrier.  
And I think this kind of thinking is needed lots of places.  We can't keep looking at the pipeline and going, I don't know why most of the books chosen here are by cis-het white people.  I don't know why this agent's list is almost all hegemonous.  
And look, part of the reason I started tracking books I read about diverse characters was because I knew without looking, it's easy.  There are so many stories about cis-het white people.  I have made some inroads keeping an eye out for own voices stories, ie stories where the author and the character share either ethnicity, sexuality, or other -ity's.  It's harder to track because it sometimes requires you to know a bit about an author, but there is something to it.  Reading stories from people who know a thing inside and out is more likely to expand me in useful ways.  Those people aren't always of that -ity, but the liklihood is greater.  We, as a culture, are exposed to a whole lot of stereotypical crap, it's hard to unpack.  
So, yes, we need to fix the pipeline, but not just by sitting back and hoping the next generation has more "natural" marginalized writers.  The pipeline is leaking out people at every level, to abuse the metaphor.  It's up to us to some up with creative ways to fix it.