Today I will address the issue of diversity at cons. First, let me say that I am certainly NO expert in the field. And, as with any field, if you don’t know that much about it, you should likely keep your mouth shut. For some reason, I’m not doing that, however, so here are my uneducated observations on this topic.
Let’s face it, most cons are run by white guys, for white guys. Recently, many cons have tried to be more inclusive towards women. As con organizers, we’ve added harassment policies to minimize some of the blatant objectification, and it is starting to work… some. There is still plenty of work to do, but it’s getting better.
The next step needs to be extending that concept out to people of color.
Look around at the next con you attend. I’m betting that con isn’t doing a great job of being inclusive. Even if there are a few fans or guests of color, most likely the majority of the committee are folks of Western European decent.
I’ve heard comments like, “it’s mostly a white hobby.”
My answer to that is: is it really? Really and truly? Or are we simply not making the con scene a safe place for people of color?
I had it pointed out to me a few months back that folks of color can feel out of place at cons. That’s not being inclusive. That’s creating an event that is comfortable to white people. It’s a cultural issue.
The other thing I hear is, “Is it really worth trying to make the con more inclusive?”
Sure it is. People of color are just as interested in speculative fiction as white people are. On a social equality note, we need to make cons more open to people of color because it’s the right thing to do. If that doesn’t sway your opinion, try looking at it like this: Its money you do not currently have walking into your con at the moment. It is a fairly strong untapped market.
So, how do we make cons more inclusive? Well, the first piece of advice I received from a person of color was (note, I asked someone who wasn’t white, because they've lived it), “It starts with the committee. If your committee is diverse, I’m betting your con will become diverse organically.” And that, frankly, is the right way to grow your con. If you get folks of color on the committee, I promise you they will point out areas where you can improve.
The next step is to get guests of color. Once you have those two pieces, you can begin to target your marketing to people of greater diversity.
So, to sum up… increase your con’s diversity. It’s the right thing to do, and it just might be the lucrative thing to do as well.