Mariana Díaz-Wionczek: Diversity, Belonging, and Racial Justice

In this series of blog posts, we asked our experts to share their perspectives on issues of race and racism and highlight the work they are doing in their respective fields. “What is your vision for the future of childhood? What are you doing in your professional capacity to achieve that vision, and/or who needs to do what to achieve that vision?”

Authentic representations of diversity in media

Mariana Díaz-Wionczek, PhD, is an independent Diversity & Inclusion and Children’s Media Advisor and Adjunct Professor in the Psychology Department at NYU.

In the current sociopolitical context, it has become more crucial than ever to talk to children about race and, unfortunately, also to address racism. We’d like to think that parents and teachers were teaching kids about diversity before the current events, but they weren’t. According to Sesame Workshop’s 2019 report, Identity Matters, 68% of parents think that a child’s race or ethnicity impacts their ability to succeed, and 31% think it has a major impact. Despite that, only 10% of parents reported that they are actually talking to their kids often about race and ethnicity, and only 8% are talking to them about socioeconomic class. Similarly, 45% of teachers think socioeconomic class is not appropriate to discuss with their kids, so only 19% are doing it at least sometimes. Media can and should fill this knowledge gap left by parents and teachers. This is a huge opportunity, and even a responsibility, given how much time kids spend in front of screens. 

We want children to see themselves authentically represented in characters that are complex, layered, and nuanced, like they are. To achieve this authenticity, it is imperative to bring diverse creative voices in the room—those who match the backgrounds and perspectives of the characters they create. Because little kids are not known for picking up on subtleties, it is important that they see concrete and direct representations of diversity, and this is more easily achievable via human characters, not monsters, robots, or animals. One of my missions, professionally speaking, is to help organizations (such as networks and studios) and individuals (such as content creators and producers) see these connections and put plans in place to ensure authentic representations of diversity by layering in multiple perspectives and stories that celebrate difference and understanding.


See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

Christy Crawford | Jordan Taitingfong | Mariana Díaz-Wionczek | Martez E. Mott
Pablo MirallesRahsaan Harris | Stanley Pierre-Louis | Vicki Ariyasu