Underlining the Importance of Embracing Diversity & Ditching a Limited Mindset for Black History Month – and Every Month In-Between
For Carlin Watkins, DE&I Engagement Program Manager at TEGNA, Black History Month is about recognizing the Black community’s pride and resilience. For TEGNA’s advertisers and brand partners, Black History Month is a time to recognize how special it is to be able to reach communities that, for a long time, have either been misrepresented or not represented at all.
By Carlin Watkins, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Engagement Program Manager at TEGNA
Black History Month holds meaning in so many ways for the Black community. For me, Black History Month has taken on a new meaning as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger, and in grade school, much of our history was buried or not included in the curriculum at all. I felt dissociated with this month, my culture, and my heritage.
My story isn’t necessarily a unique one. I was one of a few Black kids in my high school, and at the time, I wasn’t as aware of Black culture and our history because I remember this pressure to assimilate and blend. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I did until I went to undergrad. I think there was also a certain element of protection intended from parents of Black millennials, or at least from my own, to shield us from a lot of the pain they experienced when they were our age. My parents grew up in southern Georgia during the Civil Rights Movement and had a very different perspective when they were young than I did growing up.
In a private school atmosphere with no representation seen in my teachers from pretty much third grade forward, I didn’t know all that we as a community are capable of. I was learning from the perspective of individuals who could never empathize with the micro-aggressions, stereotypes, and discrimination that so many people from marginalized communities identify with in their daily lives. There was no shared experience with any of the adults who spent their days educating me, and my peer group wasn’t one that I could identify with either.
All this to say, lack of representation in my life growing up shielded me from my culture and my roots in a way I didn’t even recognize until very recently. There was a level of discomfort in my own skin because of a lack of exposure in my daily life.
As I got older, the bubble I was living in burst. I began seeing Black men and women in my life who are so proud of our culture, our skin, our intelligence, and our beauty. Those people were always there, and it’s more so that my eyes weren’t open yet.
For me, Black History Month is about that. It means recognizing my community’s pride and resilience, particularly reflected in the role models around me. We’re now at a point in time when the spotlight is on diversity and representation. Marginalized communities are now emboldened to speak up about disparities and hidden history.
For advertisers, not only is this an opportunity to explore race as a subset of diversity, but you can now appeal to and connect with people through the intersectionality of identities in your audience (ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, generational diversity, etc.).
To be able to have advertising reach communities that, for a long time, have either been misrepresented or not represented at all – it’s such a special thing. Whether it’s our stations, our ad partners, or our client’s customers, I think everyone can agree that advertising isn’t a one-approach fits all solution. A lot of opportunity is missed when considering diversity and representation with a limited mindset.
Widening that mindset can put advertisers in a place where they can course correct, if needed. If you’re in a market with a 34% Black audience, and you’re not adjusting to target appropriately based on diversity and representation, that’s 34% of people you’re not reaching.
TEGNA always strives to reach audiences as diverse as the communities we serve. Using the data we have to adjust strategies and widen reach is key to expanding what diversity and representation mean in the media industry.
Black history is important to celebrate because it’s American history. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to highlighting the voices of different cultures and communities only within the designated month assigned on the calendar. Intentionally prioritizing diversity and representation solves that problem. These communities are there to learn and gain inspiration from all year, every year.
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It’s time to embrace diversity. In 2023, Team TEGNA is dedicated to providing innovative marketing solutions to help our partners reach diverse audiences and find their perfect customers. Let’s get in touch.