Are We Lacking Positive, Minority Representation in Media?

When a group of people is marginalized, the group in many ways needs to band together to assure that it has a voice, representation, and strength in numbers to actually achieve equality. In many ways, media representation correlates to how society views and treats these minorities. The example of BET comes to mind immediately. A television channel made up shows solely written by, created for, and including a majority of black people. Many people say this is racist and too exclusive. “We should have a white entertainment channel then,” is thrown around a lot. I would know- my own family members have said it. But now, be aware of what you’re actually saying.

For this particular topic, you will need to know that black people are a total 12.2% of the entire American population. “White Americans are the majority in forty-nine of the fifty states, with Hawaii as the exception. The District of Columbia, which is not a state, has a non-white majority. Non-Hispanic Whites are the majority in forty-six states; Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas (and the District of Columbia) are the exceptions.” The non-Hispanic White percentage in 2012 was 63% but is slowly decreasing year by year (source: US Census Bureau, as cited by Wikipedia).

So, now, to really see why they might just feel the need to have their own entertainment channel, let’s look at the numbers in comparison to black actors, writers, directors, etc. “Minorities underrepresented by a factor of about 7 to 1 among lead roles in broadcast comedies and dramas.” “Minority actors claimed just 5.1% of the lead roles…,” (Direct quotes from Hollywood Diversity Report). Only 5.9% of the minority population are broadcast (non-Cable) TV show creators. Just to put that into perspective, if we had 100 people in a room to represent America, roughly 12 would be black. Another 35 people would be representative of Hispanic/Latinx populations, Asians, Pacific Islanders or Native Hawaiians, American Indian or Native American, or identify as a non-specified race other than white (US Census Bureau). Less than 3 people out of 47 would be broadcast TV show creators from the minority population out of the aforementioned out-of-100 population. Now we have to imagine that even less than 5.9% of show creators are solely black. As a matter of fact, the math shows that if we only factored our 12-out-of-100 black people into this equation, we wouldn’t even have a whole person as a show creator to represent the race. What should actually be happening is that the ratio of show creators to population demographics should be roughly equal; 94% of show creators should not be white when only around 60% of the population is. This is exactly why minority populations have to create not only their own shows and characters that accurately reflect their cultures and languages, but is also the reason people need to create entirely new channels to air these shows.

Another thing to take a look at in this instance is how things are cast and white-washed in Hollywood. During her Emmy’s speech, Viola Davis commented on the lack of opportunity for African American women in the acting field, “The only difference that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” Asian actress Arden Cho from the show Teen Wolf quoted Viola on twitter in November because of the all-white casting of the movie adaptation of Japanese manga Death Note, “Great, another Hollywood feature film casting all white leads for a famous JAPANESE manga. I’m sure the fans are gonna love that.” The all-black cast of The Wiz has been commented on several times recently, as well, by people claiming that if white people decided to make an all-white cast for the show, they would be considered racist. While many people claimed to just be trolling the internet and shouldn’t be taken seriously, a scary amount of people had seemed to actually forget that The Wiz (1978) was both a stage and film adaptation of the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz which did feature an all-white cast, and was merely revived for NBC’s live showing this weekend. Not only does that make The Wiz old news, but it also raises a point that people in 2015 are fighting about something that has existed for over 35 years, and seen to be more bothered by the all-black cast than people did back when it was first created. Essentially, in 2015, people are actually becoming more racist than they have been in a pretty long time. This leads us back to why representation has been and still is important.

It isn’t racist to have a solely or predominantly black channel or all-black musical cast- a significant majority of media throughout history has catered to white people and has been white entertainment without needing it explicitly stated in the title. As a matter of fact, this is the main blueprint of society; a significant majority of things, material and non-material alike, are geared towards white people and favor white people. To counteract that, minority populations have to create their own safe-spaces, their own organizations, their own television channels, just to feel included. The worst part is, instead of taking the hint and including them in things and actually allowing them representation and participation in society, we complain that they are reaping benefits of a system that is so against them it actually encourages violence against them. Yes- our system is so backwards right now that we intrinsically treat minority individuals as if they are less of a person than ourselves, and in doing so, we have decided that we are distinct groups and not one human population, and we have allowed this mentality to somehow assure us that violence against those who look and speak differently can be justifiably assaulted, beaten, and murdered. We should spend our time and energy on making the world a safer place for minorities and less about trying to level a playing field that is already so tilted in our favor.


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