It was a bright, sunny September morning when I stepped onto the CBS Radford lot for the first time. Approaching the front gate, I asked the security official to point me in the direction of the Art Building. Before directing me where to go, I was confused when I heard the guard chuckle and say, “You must be from the Northeast.” Noticing how taken aback I was that this stranger knew where I had lived my whole life from uttering only two sentences, he kindly explained that my accent had given me away. It had nothing to do with my dress attire, nor my physical appearance, but instead my word pronunciation. It was clear my communication style differentiated from that of a typical 21-year-old Los Angeles female. I was diverse. Yet, rather than be intimidated by the fact that I stood apart from the rest of the workers on the lot, I felt empowered that I had possessed a trait that separated me from being like everyone else.
Diversity is all around us and it is not just limited to our race, sex or ethnicity. We are all diverse whether it is through how we express ourselves, what we believe or our how we view life on a daily basis. Still, when most people hear the word “diversity”, they automatically assume it is partial to include only those with different colors of skin or heritages classified as minorities. With those perceptions, people are quick to sort these particular individuals into stereotypical categories. Within this classification system, many align members of certain groups with negative characteristics, labeling individuals unfairly.
This is exactly where diversity affects our ability to properly communicate. In today’s society, how many of us can engage in a conversation with someone who is Middle Eastern and Muslim without thinking back to the tragedy of September 11th? How many of us can walk down a deserted street late at night and become instantaneously fearful when a young African American teenager in baggy jeans and an oversized trench coat approaches in the distance? How many of us are able to avoid questioning if someone is an “illegal immigrant” when overhearing a couple of Mexican descent talking to one another?
It is sad to say that these stereotypical images ingrained in our heads have now translated onto the television scene. I recently read a script where a rapper was gunned down in a club with the primary murder suspect being a rival rapper. I must admit, I was guilty of the same stereotypical perception, assuming both men were African American before even looking at a cast list to see who starred in the role.
It is instances like these where we have to take a step back and truly reflect how abrupt we are to judge others who are different from us. Both of those rappers easily could have been Caucasian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander or even Chinese, but the dominant perception told us otherwise. I can only imagine what audiences may be thinking once they watch these shows. How can someone relate to a character, who is constantly casted as the villain, because of race?
From an intern’s perspective, learning the ins and outs of the television world, I have found that shows appeal more to the public when they are diverse. How many times have you heard someone say, “All of these shows are the exact same?’ People do not want to watch repeats; they are drawn to new episodes. In the same way, individuals crave variety in their viewing choices, even if that means watching a show completely out of the norm. Every day, people are defying stereotypes and rising above and beyond expectations. Now, it’s time to give those who wish to be judged by their personality, talents and drive a chance to excel and succeed in what they worked so vigorously hard to accomplish.