Shonda Rhimes Hates The Word "Diversity"

Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Shonda Rhimes hates the word "diversity." This may come as a surprise given the breadth and scope of the stories she tells on her numerous shows, but her reasoning absolutely makes sense. See, even the word diversity is limiting. It still separates out certain people as others, when really, we're all dealing with the same emotions as a part of the human condition. Rhimes explained her feelings and rationale in a wonderful speech while accepting the Ally for Equality Award at this weekend's Human Rights Campaign's gala. 

"I really hate the word 'diversity,'" Rhimes said. "It is just something other. Something special, like it’s rare. 'It’s diversity!' As if there is something unusual about telling stories about women or people of color or LGBT characters on TV. I have a different word. I call it 'normalizing.' I make TV look like the world looks."

She has an end goal in mind for normalizing the characters and stories that we see on television, and celebrating differences is a part of it. "Everyone should get to turn on the TV and see someone who looks like them and loves like them. And just as important, everyone should turn on the TV and see someone who doesn’t look like them and love like them. Because, perhaps then they will learn from them. Perhaps then they will not isolate them, marginalize them, erase them. Perhaps they will even come to recognize themselves in them. Perhaps they will even learn to love them."

Rhimes continued, saying that she only writes about one topic: "being alone." The stories that she tells all stem from the human desire to connect. "The fear of being alone, the desire to not be alone, the attempts we make to find our person, to keep our person, to convince our person to not leave us alone, the joy of being with our person and thus no longer alone, the devastation of being left alone. The need to hear the words: You are not alone."

That's why Rhimes started writing in the first place. She was a shy child and "often the only black girl in my class." She created companionship in the form of characters who could be her friends. "I named them and wrote every detail about them. I gave them stories and homes and families."

Shondaland, which is also the name Rhimes gave to her production company, has always existed in a corner of her mind. It started as a coping mechanism to help her feel "less isolated, less marginalized, less invisible in the eyes of my peers," but now, the stories Rhimes has always created are helping others. 

Rhimes concluded her speech at the HRC gala with a call to action that everyone can heed. "You are not alone. Nobody should be alone. So I write." Stories are powerful. They can bridge the divide and connect you to others, evaporating that loneliness.  (Vulture)
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