Saturday, October 27, 2007

Diversity vs. Universalism, and applying it to comic books

I had an economics teacher two years ago who threw some radical ideas into my head. What were these ideas? That human beings were all fundamentally the same and built from the same cloth. This went against what I had been spoonfed throughout public school, where messages of sameness were rejected for "Celebrate Differences," entire seminars on particular cultures and of course the Seattle School District's policy of racial preferences for non-white students.

I'm not a child psychologist, but I have an intuition that if the message of racial differences is not presented to children regularly through teachers, parents or media, they are far less likely to see differences. In my personal viewpoint, this result would be alot better than children who are taught to "appreciate differences."

This message is still being sent to kids. A recent article in Comic Book Resources focuses on a comic book that features a multicultural cast, from the look of it a white boy, a black boy and a disabled Asian girl. The comic book is called The Scrapeyard Detectives and it is produced yearly and given away to libraries and schools. Creator Bill Galvan openly touts it as "promoting ethnic diversity."

I was surprised to see that a white kid was included, as almost all of the multicultural programs in my public school tenure acted as if whites had no culture at all. I can recall in high school monthly "Diversity assemblies" where there were Ethiopian music, Vietnamese dancing and the Black Student Union singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing." When this was combined with a history curriculum that emphasized slavery, genocide of Native Americans, misogyny and environmental destruction, a subtle message was given that having been born a white male, something I never had control of, had to be accompanied with constant apologies for the sins of people I had never met.

In the article at CBR, questions were not asked of Scrapeyard Detectives creator Bill Galvan as to whether or not white guilt was part of his message of diversity. I respect anyone who brings the medium of comic books to children, and to use it to make everyone proud of who they are would be a great accomplishment.

No comments: