Why Representation Matters

Articles, Tiny Houses

As probably the most vocal person of color in the tiny house movement, I continually press for representation in the community and at events. These comments are why. A friend in the movement has a video tour of my TH on his site and there are currently 645 comments, with many of them expressing the same sentiment of excitement of seeing a PoC in the movement. One main comment expressing that has 49 replies of people sharing how surprised and excited they were, how fast they clicked on the video when they saw my brown face. There were also a couple of those “we’re all one race”, “we’re all humans”, why would you make this about race?” comments.

While some of my counterparts don’t seem to get it, don’t care to get it, don’t have to get it, are focused more on revenue and less on content, whatever the case is that prevents them from affecting positive change, I’d like to explain why representation is so important in this movement. Yes, we’re all one race and we’re all humans – however, until racism is no longer a thing the experience of PoC moving about in this world will always be different. Period. Imagine for a honest few minutes that you were interested in something; golf, running, yoga or even tiny houses and as you began to pursue your interest you went to an event, a workshop or signed up to attend a race and the majority of the speakers, event organizers or participants were people of color… Then as you became more interested and continued to pursue your interest, attended events, looked at information online, etc you rarely, if ever, saw anyone of the same race as you. If you’re honest you’d admit that you’d be uncomfortable. If you’re honest you’d admit that you’d begin to question whether whatever you were interested in was for you. If you’re honest you’d admit you might change your mind about being interested in said thing if that continued to be your experience.
Let me give you another example. When I’m at my best I’m working out regularly and running. Working out and running is tough on your skin and hair care regimen – across the board for all races. However, until just a few years ago when I’d read running magazines and they’d share suggestions for haircare and skincare – it wasn’t ever relevent to me. As a PoC my regimen and my products are different. A lack of personal connection and representation can be enough to discourage someone’s participation. Here’s another example, when I first joined the tiny house movement early on I didn’t see anyone that looked like me. I did my in-depth research, attended a workshop, visited a tiny house and I built my tiny house. I understood the concerns regarding legality and parking that the community faces, I was prepared for all of that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the racism I experienced in the RV Park where I first placed my tiny house or the racism experience in a Facebook group or the racist comments sometimes left on my pictures. Not one person I’d bought material from or connected with in the movement could have given me a heads up that might have prepared me to think and prepare accordingly. Not one presenter at the workshop I attended could have understood that in addition to the legality and parking issues that the entire community faces, I’d also need to consider racism as an issue in rural areas where I might consider parking my tiny house or in the areas where I might attend a tiny house festival.That I might need a different game plan for tiny house parking than what are the standard go to options. Not one person could relate to me as to how that would feel. Would it taint my entire tiny house experience, would it make me afraid to live in my tiny home or would I be uncomfortable attending tiny house events. Why not? Simply because that’s not their experience. Yet those are some of the questions asked now of me and other PoC in the movement. We’re able to share our perspective, give an honest answer, provide some guidance based on personal experience.

Obviously if your walk in the world is as the majority these things might not be something you’d ever have to consider. However if your walk in this life is to be a decent human being, these things are something that you should consider. Thinking outside of yourself and your experience is the basis for being a decent human being. In the interim, I’ll continue to be vocal, I’ll continue to speak on diversity and representation and we’ll continue to ensure we’re never exclusive, but always included.

Representation is important and it matters.

#tinyhousetrailblazers

9 comments

  • I love what your doing but I am sad that you are treated differently then any one else. I have a hard time understanding why we all can’t just live and let live. I want to build a tiny home. I’ll be reading your blog! Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Greetings Jewel. I came to know of TH about 7 years ago. I “must say” until I saw your “face” and watched your build I realized why I had not yet moved forward…”representation!” As I navigate through your site I’m overwhelmed to say the least. The plethora of guidance & resources needed to began the thought process & the journey, thought provoking FACTS to be aware of, what “community” means in the TH lifestyle and how to support said community it is ALL of what I was missing!

    As Shan pointed out in her spotlight, being selective about your builder choice could make all the difference. Being avoided, unprofessionalism & passive aggressive behaviour I call “handling” is unfortunately very common treatment. On the other hand I agree with you that after the build, how would the builders, designers etc know of the challenges PoC may face in finding the right location for your TH.

    You have empowered me with the proper guidance, vision & call to action needed to be a more informed consumer. I feel so very concerned about location however, sad really. As your sanctuary was being moved to its location, I weeped?. And so, I’ll began the journey with legalities & community. I have so much gratitude for YOU?. Light & Love.

  • Keep fighting sister. You are not alone. Others are coming to support and uplift your voice. It is not necessary that others to understand or have experienced what you’re going through to make your perspective and experience “real”. There is a willful ignorance and denial of the world as it is. Just know that others hear your voice and we got your back.

  • Finding this blog has been so amazing – thank you for creating this amazing resource and telling your story! You are doing something amazing in this world! <3 Homesteading has always been a dream of mine. I'm a POC in an interracial relationship with another POC of a different race, and being someone who has always lived the city, I've been more nervous than ever about leaving it with this political climate. I wonder whether you would ever create a guide of the areas in rural america that are more friendly to people like us?

  • I’m so excited that I found your site! I saw you and your tiny house and yes I mostly lost my mind! The racism is a part of the reason that I’ve held off on going to any workshops. I’m okay around a lot of white people in my hometown but most of the workshops are down south and…well nah. Thank you so much for this site! I’m really hoping that I can get it together to make it to the workshop in June!

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