Though quotas can be brilliant tools for inclusivity, does it count if it’s inauthentic? Does it count if it’s to make the company look better, opposed to having a desire to uplift and promote marginalised voices? Is inclusion for the sake of it worth it? Or is it merely a mockery to those who are trying to push through the artistic glass ceiling ?
Often when someone is selected for an opportunity based on their identity, there can be pressure to exploit that part of themselves. What if I get picked for something due to being black and queer, but I want to write a piece about architecture in the Cotswolds? Or glass toasters? Or literally anything else? Often the good intentions of quotas can result in artists and creators feeling pigeonholed and looked at just for their identity opposed to their talents. We live in a time where conversations about identity politics have been pushed to the forefront. This has led to worldwide discourse on topics not limited to race, gender, disability, weight, privilege and sexuality. Furthermore, this has resulted in people wanting more visibility when it comes to people of minority backgrounds. The days of only seeing straight, skinny, white people on TV, online and in advertisements are behind us. And rightly so. It can be isolating to live in a world where the only time you see people that look like you is dying on the news or struggling in the street. Representation, particularly in the arts industry, is vital in showcasing other perspectives and talents. Especially in an industry (like most) which is dominated by cis whiteness, visible diversity is crucial. It makes people feel seen and heard. Being an artist in an economy that doesn’t prioritise, or value art or creativity is hard enough. Add a sea of white faces to that and sometimes it can feel like you’re drowning but no one can see it. This has not gone unnoticed by large media companies, independent artists, creatives and art collectives. There’s been times where I’ve found myself applying to a creative callout and almost always, I notice a variation of “Priority for creatives from a minority background: BAME, LGBTQ+ etc.” or “We encourage individuals from marginalised groups to apply.” On the surface, it’s great that people are realising that black queer voices aren’t prioritized and are often overlooked. Our voices and experiences do need to be uplifted. On the other hand, specifically with bigger companies this sentiment is often not to benefit the artist, but to make themselves look better. It’s clear that some people don’t realise that it goes further than visibility. Quota and box ticking can often make artists feel more restricted. Just because you’ve given a minority an opportunity it doesn’t absolve you from being bigoted. It doesn’t mean that the work is done. It’s reductive for people in positions of power to use their privilege in a way that only benefits themselves.
Hire me because the price of pasta has gone up by 10%. Hire me because I’ve worked hard for it. Hire me because I work in an industry that only wants me if I’m packaged a certain way. Hire me because I'm talented. Don't hire me because you want to have diversity ticked off your list. Hire me because I really want to write about architecture in the Cotswolds.
Ray Vincent-Mills is a Birmingham based poet with one too many jobs in hospitality. He’s a professional eavesdropper, a charity shop enthusiast and dessert lover. His debut poetry chapbook Creature without building is available 8th August.