As futuristic as it once sounded, thanks to the novel by George Orwell, the year 1984 didn’t stand out because of a dystopian society. Instead, I remember it as the year I experienced my first diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) moment, long before I’d ever heard the abbreviation or the term uttered. There was not a mention, not a peep. If I had heard it, I would not have known what it meant.
In 1984, I was more than 20 years away from focusing on DEI at KPBS in San Diego. When I encountered the topic, I felt frustration and resentment. Not because I took it as a personal affront, but because it left me having to complete someone else’s work.
I attribute these feelings of discontent, in part, to being an American-born Venezuelan, having spent most of my childhood living in Queens, a borough of New York City. While my brothers came and went as they pleased, my family did their best to raise me to be a proper daughter with many of the restrictive traditions by which a Venezuelan female needed to abide. This included chores on Saturdays and church on Sundays.
In 1984, I was in the fifth year of my career at KCTS, public television in Seattle. I had recently hired Beth, a student from the University of Washington, who was majoring in communications and eager to learn. Beth was amiable and appeared to be a good fit for our department, and, though I didn’t see it then, I’d eventually come to see that Beth was an activist, more socially aware than I was, with a mind of her own. What’s more, she wasn’t shy about knocking down established norms of the day. Whereas exhibiting such behavior went against everything I believed in.
Unlike Beth, any mind of my own that I might have possessed had been molded and shaped by my parents’ careful oversight and by the mores of the day. Let’s not forget that in addition to being a Latina, I was a Baby Boomer. This meant that, like most girls my age, I was raised on TV shows about sweet, loving housewives who wore pearls while vacuuming and baking pies. I’d see films starring Doris Day, who’d always get her man, and I was encouraged to “play house” in kindergarten while the boys played at being firefighters and astronauts. What’s more, my imaginative play consisted of my Barbie doll marrying Ken over and over, and mindless hours drawing in bridal coloring books.
Feminism might have been in full swing, but I found myself choosing the traditions of being female in America against the backdrop of the feminist movement. I was firmly and decidedly a product of my culture and generation.