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The Higher Standard of Diverse Media

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When beginning any discussion, it is important to lay out the foundation that the discussion is based on. I am queer, Latina, and a US citizen. I began advocating for social justice when I realized (at ~age 11) that I wasn't going to be able to get married unless, by some miracle, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. I've come a long way since then - an active protester for prison reform, civil rights, queer rights, and pretty much every liberal social justice platform there is (I could write an entire Tolkien-level novel on all the issues I care about, so I'm cutting myself off here). The point is, I come from a place of:

1) strongly supporting the black community through education, protests, petitions, and annoyance of my congressional representatives
2) I am not black, so I do not have the black experience. I have the experience of being POC, but there is a difference. There is privilege I experience from my non-blackness, and oppression from my non-whiteness.
3) I am a firm believer in ACAB, and the need to completely overhaul the entire policing and judicial system.
4) Even if you don't want to read this I have some petitions linked in the notes section so please sign those at least :)

The key point of this discussion is as follows. The higher standard that BIPOC media and people are held to as compared to white media and people creates an issue where the existence of diversity in a show exposes the show as a target to "not enough" diversity from performative allies. In this case, the diverse media and people will be referring to Brooklyn 99 as a police TV show, and the white counterpart will be Law and Order: SVU (although note I refer to all non-B99 police shows, and picked this one because I strongly dislike it for its portrayal of the sole victims of assault being white women, a different but related issue, cutting this tangent off here).

To begin: I fully understand and accept that B99 has cop propaganda in it - by the simple virtue of there being morally just and upstanding police officers in it (as is impossible under our current ACAB model that requires police to enforce unjust laws, making them unjust on principle).

However, I have noted a distinct tonal difference in comparison to criticism of other police shows. Namely, I have not seen criticism of other shows at all. While my feed became deluged with criticisms of B99's propaganda, there was a distinct lack of it in other police platforms. Because of the risk of skewed perception from algorithm filtration, I also sought out the SVU, NCIS, etc. tags, and didn't find any similar criticisms on their tags. That removes that variable of algorithmic interference.

Now, I was forced to ask myself: "Why does B99, the diverse show that tackles social justice issues and whose cast has donated to BLM movements, receive criticism for hurting the BLM movement when shows that are majority white and do not support the BLM movement escape such criticism?" The answer is, because it is a diverse show.

Brooklyn 99 has a diverse fanbase, because of its diversity. I, for one, didn't watch most cop shows because there was no relatability there. But, put in an Amy Santiago and a Rosa Diaz? Sign me up. I would never dare ask for a show like SVU to make a character queer. But, B99, which has already shown its commitment to diversity and its willingness to create inclusivity? Yeah, I'm going to ask for (and be over the moon when) they make Rosa bi. It was like looking in a (arguably way hotter) mirror. The issue is, I wouldn't expect the whitebread, cishetero show to be inclusive, so I never would have bothered to hold them to that standard.

But B99? B99 who punches homophobes and has such genuine diversity, breaks gender norms, promotes inclusion, deals with serious issues like sexual harassment and racial inequality? Well, we expect more out of them, because they have set their baseline further up than the others have.

Of course, all shows should be inclusive. Looking at B99, however, it is difficult to see how we expect them to have more diversity (aside from a fan-requested trans Jake, which actually if they have a trans character I would want a trans actor/actress to play the role not a cis dude, but that's another topic entirely) while some shows like SVU have had no more than two POC (Ice-T and BD Wong) for their entire series.

The problem is we don't ask shows like SVU to have more diversity. And when we do, it's met with "haha yeah okay maybe we'll tease this character to be gay for three seasons, happy now?" because they don't expect us to hold them to it. B99 has shown that it cares about its fanbase and diversity, so we keep holding them to higher and higher bars because we know they can always be doing more, better, while other shows get to sit back and relax in their homogeneity.

Shows like SVU are pure, unadulterated cop propaganda - the police are the good guys 100% of the time, they always get the bad guy, etc. B99 touches towards propaganda, but I always saw it as more of what the police could be. The police can be female, queer, BIPOC, if we work for it. Make no mistake, there is pro-cop propaganda, the same way Parks & Rec has pro-government propaganda. It is a genuine problem that arises whenever a setting occurs in a corrupt system.

So then, if B99 is burdened with cop propaganda, what's the point of this discussion?

Well, as I said before: the issue is that the show has less propaganda than any other cop shows, and works to promote good in queer/ & BIPOC communities, but is the one facing the overwhelming majority (if not total) criticism for this propaganda.

Here is where the higher standards set for BIPOC becomes a crippling issue. By holding diverse media to a higher standard than everything else when it comes to social justice issues, in this situation BLM, it actively lets the main culprits of the issue get away unscathed. It's the diversity model of the media chastising us for using plastic straws when Pepsi is shoveling garbage into the mouths of dolphins. Sure, switching from plastic straws did improve the environment, but to an infinitesimal degree. The biggest changes have to be made to the shows that are actively promoting whiteness, pro-police, and pro-brutality (SVU has a lot of police doing questionable stuff in it, but CSI: Miami and NCIS are definitely the worst culprits on that front as far as I can tell).

Holding BIPOC people and media like B99 to higher standards than every other cop show that has their 'token' black person in it could come from any number of reasons. How BIPOC have to be twice as good to be considered equal, how they, because of their diversity, attract diverse people who want to see more justice, and how being an advocate for rights puts more pressure on in general, are all factors.

There is one key consideration I would like to discuss, however, since those above are common knowledge and have been discussed before, that is particularly troubling in regards to this particular B99 and cop propaganda association: performative allyship.

By complaining that a diverse show isn't doing enough, white "allies" are able to manipulate it so that they are perceived as being even more in favor of diversity than the show.

Now, what does that mean?

If a white ally complains that SVU isn't diverse, that they need more BIPOC than they have, it's met with a 'well no shit, we've been complaining about that for years'. It's not a bold statement, it doesn't garner them attention or accolades, the praise that a performative ally does their allyship for. However, they go after B99, point to a show with a large non-white cast, and say that this show is failing the movement...

It's about the perceived 'bravery' of the action that garners performative allies praise. It says "I can see that this diverse show isn't diverse enough for you, you deserve more." Which, yeah, actually, we do deserve a show with disabled, trans, Muslim, POC, everything and more! But, by targeting the show that is already further ahead than the others, this is disingenuous. It is telling BIPOC not to enjoy the only cop show (cop shows are an entire genre!) that we are represented in, but that we should condemn it, feel angry at it for not being enough.

Meanwhile, the performative ally gets to feel special for being 'strong' enough to condemn a heavily BIPOC and queer show, while SVU and its many counterparts get to slide by unabashedly. If these allies are so angry about B99, why do they not feel 1000x that rage on behalf of BIPOC (since they do so love to coopt our emotions) for shows like SVU?

But they don't have that anger. Because all performative allies care about is their own praise and approval - so putting in actual effort that doesn't give immediate benefit to them personally is irrelevant. If they don't get their ego stroked for it, then they won't bother.

Resultantly, a diverse show is written off as cop propaganda that we should condemn by those who benefit from its condemnation. Meanwhile, blatant cop propaganda goes unhindered, because performative allies can't be bothered to fight for the big change - only the insignificant bits that win them accolades, at the cost of actual BIPOC representation. We deserve more, definitely, but we deserve more from everyone, not just the one show that has put forth actual effort.

I do not think B99 goes far enough. I do think we deserve more. But to ask that of B99, instead of any other cop show out there, seems unfair. It is holding a show that is already doing the most it logistically can (I still hold onto my conspiracy theory that it's because of its diversity it got cancelled initially) to do more than it already is while others do nothing. I truly believe that this is actively harming BIPOC communities by damaging our one tie to an entire genre of media. Especially when the show has potential to change other people's minds through its casual diversity.

Can you imagine some white person who loves cop shows, tuning into Brooklyn 99 and seeing 'He Said She Said'? Or 'Moo-Moo'? Or just any episode that has Rosa's girlfriend? Or Holt's rainbow flag? Or Terry being emotional? How something so small as existing can change someone's entire perception can seem absurd, but it can. These things matter.

Closing out this discussion doesn't feel adequate. I want to keep hammering the point home. But, that would get tedious, I fear, since although I have much to say on the matter, I accept that I will have either made my argument or by now or not. I am queer, I am POC, and I think Brooklyn 99 is the only acceptable cop show out there.

I condemn NCIS, CSI, Law and Order, Criminal Minds, Chicago PD, all spinoffs, and every single other cop show out there that pushes a narrative of white, cisgender, heterosexual police as the beacons of our country - because they are not. They are our oppressors. I want the country to be better - and Brooklyn 99 gives me hope that our fight to completely reset the police system will work. Brooklyn 99 are the potential cops of the future. And I want that.