A year ago, I wrote that I thought Americans were ready for a new Roaring `20s. A third of the way into 2022, we’re getting unwelcome reminders of a couple of other decades that aren’t remembered very fondly: the `30s (thanks, Putin) and the `70s (thanks, inflation).
They aren’t the only troubling things that I’m seeing in the headlines, particularly when it comes to inclusivity. The biggest backlash to LGBTQ+ rights in a generation is underway, with over 220 bills introduced in 39 states in just the first three months of this year taking aim at everything from trans participation in sports to simply discussing non-traditional families and sexual identity in grade schools. Two years after the brutal murder of George Floyd, meaningful reform of our law enforcement practices remains a mirage. And research has shown that the most direct correlating factor with participation in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the rate of decline in white share of local population.
With all that going on (and more), it may come as a bit of a surprise to you that I’m still bullish on the future of inclusivity. Why? Because backlash or no, it’s simply too ingrained in the culture – and too important a focus for younger Americans – to dislodge now.
And rather than fighting against changes in the making, the folks leading the backlash are fighting against inclusive changes that have already happened and are widely accepted by society at large. Disney’s renewed commitment to DE&I has led to predictable calls for boycotts – which will probably go as far as they did after Nike’s ad with Colin Kaepernick (the screenshot to the right helps explain why) – although Florida’s Republican-led government is retaliating against the House of Mouse as well.
But it’s not just the backlash to the backlash that keeps my glasses tinted with a bit of rose. Inclusivity isn’t just getting too ingrained in our culture; it’s doing a better job of including a wider and greater array of people. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “Encanto” continue trends of non-white voices increasingly contributing to the cultural mainstream on the big screen.
Shows like Bridgerton, Our Flag Means Death, and Moon Knight tell stories on TV with an increasing focus on culturally-specific and non-ethnic lenses.
So, while it might look like we’re taking steps backwards this year, my advice to marketers is to keep it up when it comes to inclusion. Don’t just do more, but do it better. Your customers – and your bottom line – will thank you.
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