The Ethnicity and Diversity Online panel took place on Sunday at Summer in the City 2016. It featured Nathan Zed, Jana Dam, and Suli Breaks, and was chaired by Taha Khan.
It kicked off with Taha asking the panellists about any difficulties they had found when talking about race. Nathan shared that, when he first began making videos, his problem was that he “was just preaching about it”. He has since found that using comedy and satire is a more effective way to discuss the issue.
Suli touched the problems associated with becoming a representative of your whole race, as people may think you’re holding yourself up as an ambassador. Jana also added that it was a challenge to get other people to relate to the content and to reach a wider audience.
Taha then challenged the panel by asking, “Why do we need diversity?” Jana answered, explaining that “we only see what the media shows us. I think it’s important for us to relate to each other so that we can actually feel like we’re all human”.
Nathan then recounted a personal story about his little sister, who wanted to dress up as a Disney princess but was told she couldn’t because there weren’t any dark-skinned princesses. Scola pointed out that it was important to break stereotypes, and Suli stated “we are not the same but we should be treated equal […] diversity does really help to highlight the beauty we have not just as individuals but as a human race as an entirety”, gaining a round of applause.
Taha then asked if we can expect a new generation of minorities to get into YouTube. “I’m just trying to be the person that I would have liked to see growing up,” said Nathan. Jana added that there is a demand for diverse creators and Scola emphasised this point, saying that it is important to embrace your culture and that audiences want to see something new and different.
The panellists all shared their personal thoughts and experiences, with Eman expressing how he feels like sometimes he is swept to the side, as he’s not your typical mainstream creator. He views different backgrounds to be positive: “We all have so many unique different stories waiting to be heard – people just need to be more welcoming”. On this point, Scola said that “it’s awkward and weird” how events like Summer in the City lack diversity.
The panel looked together at how divides between cultures could be merged, with Jana saying that it was good to go out and find other YouTubers to learn about different cultures.
Suli responded with a counter question: “Who are we blaming for this disparity? YouTube as a structure, the audience, or creator? YouTube will only be reflective of their society, change will only come with discussions like this.”
Taha then shared that he had spoken to some people who unsure about coming to this panel. Eman challenged that view, stating that “we are not trying to appeal to just our own ethnicities”, with Nathan adding that “we need everyone to speak together”, a sentiment the whole panel was in agreement with. “Even if you’re not from an ethnic minority, you shouldn’t feel you can’t speak about these topics, ask questions or learn,” said Jana.
Together, the panel emphasised a need to listen, question and try to understand each other, and to encourage creators to be true to themselves.
Photos by Jon D Barker.
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