Social media is currently awash with the term “diversity”. Not to mention similarly now-divisive buzzwords like “woke”, which has also been weaponised as a negative against being a decent person.
I’ve noticed that a subsection of Twitter creates a huge amount of fuss if a television advert features more non-white people than white people. The reason often cited? The proportional representation in comparison to the UK population because 87% are white. It’s fair to say it’s a vocal minority on social media who do this, but it has become so widespread it no longer feels like a minority.
Admittedly, television may over-represent the demographics but when you consider that non-white Britons will be even more underrepresented in certain sectors, it’s only right to restore the balance.
This doesn’t just apply to race. It also applies to disability. Britain’s Got Talent has seen a rise in disabled contestants in recent years; comedian Lee Ridley, best known as Lost Voice Guy (a contestant with cerebral palsy who also cannot speak) won the show in 2018. The comments on social media were rather insulting such as, “he’s only pressing buttons” and “if a non-disabled comedian did the same act they wouldn’t have won”.
Comedians like Rob Beckett and Jason Manford often talk about their working-class backgrounds but when a black comedian or a disabled comedian speaks about their own experiences, they tend to be criticised for the very thing that makes them different.
Rosie Jones is another comedian with cerebral palsy who sparks ableism whenever she appears on telly. They criticise her speech, something out of her control.
I have also noticed that people feel the need to tell us why they don’t find a comedian in a minority group funny. It can often come across as a way of hiding their racism and ableism.
Another example on the subject is the 13th series of The Great British Bake Off which starts this month. The official Twitter account tweeted brief profiles of each of the contestants; I immediately saw a tweet from someone who seemed to assume that the non-white contestants were not chosen on merit.
Another thing that bothers me about the ‘box-ticking’ argument is that it always seems to read along the lines of “I think it should be the best person for the job, not just because of their skin colour”. While I agree, this series of Bake Off hasn’t even premiered and yet this person thought that the non-white people could not possibly have been chosen for their skills. Whether a troll or a bot account or not, the sentiment expressed seems to sadly reflect a lot of the views that people who oppose diversity seem to have.
I wrote a Twitter thread which touches on this subject (“supposed sympathy towards disabled people”) and I said that Britain has both an ableism and a racism problem. Immediately the tweet was targeted by some racists who only served to prove my point. It does feel that for whatever reason, discourse about this is getting nastier and nastier. The pushback against racial and disability progression doesn’t reflect well on Britain.