A while ago, someone emailed me to ask for help getting word out on a blog post they wrote on a report about workplace satisfaction or something. I asked, “Did your report disaggregate data on employees of color?” They said no, sounding apologetic. This happens all the time, where diversity and inclusion are an afterthought, something that is a nice-to-have, but not an essential element.
I understand there are times when it makes sense to talk about issues in the general sense. But all of us need to develop and sharpen the lens we use to look at the world and the issues we are addressing. The problems we are tackling are all affected by multiple forms of intersecting inequity, and we must train ourselves to see and analyze race, ethnicity, class, age, gender, disability, neuro-diversity, LGBTQIA identity, etc. Those of us who create content, especially, must take this seriously, as our blogs, articles, podcasts, tweets, videos, books, rock musical, etc., may reach thousands of people. And if we are not thoughtful and deliberate, then we may be unconsciously reinforcing certain things as the default, namely white heteronormative cis-male able-bodied neuro-typical norms.
So here’s an Equity Screen with questions that I hope may be helpful as you create your next blog, article, book, one-act play, whatever a “Tik Tok” is, etc. To make it easier to remember, I divided the questions into categories with the acronym REACH, which stands for Representation, Experience, Accessibility, Compensation, and Harm Reduction. I’m sure I’m missing important things. Please feel free to provide feedback in the comment section, and I’ll revise this screen as we go along. Thanks to everyone over the years who helped me to develop this list and my own lens around a whole bunch of issues.
The REACH Equity Screen for Content Creators
Representation: How does the issue you’re exploring affect people of diverse identities?
- Black, Indigenous, People of Color
- People with disabilities, visible and invisible
- LGBQA folks
- Transgender and Intersex individuals
- People of different income levels
- Older adults
- Youth and younger folks
- People of different religions
- Parents of young children; caregivers
- Neuro-diverse individuals
- Rural communities
- People of varying levels of formal education
Experience: Are you the appropriate person/organization to be talking about this issue?
- Do you need, and have, the lived-experience to talk about this issue?
- Are there people from the above list who have written/spoken about this issue that you should give credit to?
- Are you appropriating from other cultures in creating this content?
- Are you Columbusing? (“Discovering” something that was already in existence)
Accessibility: Can everyone access your content?
- Are there descriptions/alt-text on every image?
- Are there captions/subtitles on your videos?
- Is there sufficient contrast in terms of text and background?
- Are font sizes big enough?
- Are your links underlined instead of just a different color, which may not be helpful to color-blind people?
- If you’re doing a video or podcast, did you provide a complete transcript?
- Is your language too academic or full of jargon?
- Are your acronyms spelled out?
- (Here are more tips on making content accessible)
Compensation: Who is getting paid, is it equitable?
- Are you, or will you, be benefiting financially or in other ways from this content?
- If you are getting compensated, does it make sense for you to be compensated? (For instance, if you’re not Native, should you get paid for an article about Native issues?)
- Are you compensating people equitably to help create and distribute this content?
- Are you using women- and minority-owned businesses?
Harm reduction: Is your content unintentionally causing harm?
- Are the examples you use reinforcing stereotypes? (for instance, if you mention a fictional doctor or engineer to illustrate a point, did you make that person male?)
- Is the language you use reinforcing gender binaries, such as using “he or she” when you could just use “they”?
- Are you making vast generalizations about whole groups of people? For instance, Millennials or Boomers?
- Are you shaming people of different body types?
- Are you reinforcing stigma against poor people, such as calling something “low-class”?
- Are you casually using words like “tribe” and “spirit animal” that may have significant meaning to Native and other communities?
- Are you making light of medical conditions such as alcoholism?
- Are you using words that are ableist, like “tone-deaf”?
- Are you using language that further stigmatizes mental health, such as “that meeting was crazy”?
These above questions (and I’m sure there are lots more) may not all be relevant to the content you’re creating, but it’s helpful to think about them, and once you do it enough, you become better and faster at it. Not that any of us will do it perfectly, ever, though. This is complex, and time, resource, and other constraints often means there’s no possible way we are going to be able include everything. And we’ll make mistakes all the time. This is my blog, so I try to make myself sound smart (*cough, not working, cough* Hey who said that?!), but I screw up a lot too. Sometimes I write stuff and people go, “You forgot to talk about how this affects older adults” or “Did you consider that people with dyslexia actually like and benefit from Comic Sans?!”
This is a huge part of our work though. For Equity to be realized, it must constantly and consistently be integrated into everything we do and think about. Equity can’t be like pine nuts, which we only add to certain dishes when we want to impress our friends and can spare $17 for eight pine nuts. It must be like our favorite knife, which we use every day to prepare ingredients for all sorts of dishes and thus it must always be kept sharp.
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