Images have immense power. They have the power to stimulate, to civilize and to dehumanize, as we saw in the video of George Floyd and Ahmaud Aubrey. Hollywood can play a perfect role in combating racism. The first step Hollywood needs to take is to look at themselves. What role does Hollywood play in racism? What steps can they take to be a better ally?
When I say Hollywood, I mean all layers; from actors to the board of directors, studios, actors, screenwriters, etc. From the very beginning of Hollywood, the Black community has been streamlined to one-dimensional token characters and the false narratives–Blackface, Mamie, hood characters, and villains. The black community isn’t monolithic. We are multi-faceted, and our stories need to be shown in that light by black creators.
Hollywood’s Reaction To Racism
Some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities have been huge advocates of fighting for justice. Actor, Kenneth Sampson (Insecure) has been vigilantly on the front lines protesting and creating initiatives for change. He crafted an open letter addressed to Hollywood with more than 300 Black performers and executives’ signatures.
The letter opening statement states, “Hollywood has privilege as a creative industry to imagine and create. We have significant influence over culture and politics. We have the ability to use our influence to imagine and create a better world. Yet, historically and currently, Hollywood encourages the epidemic of police violence and the culture of anti-Blackness.”
Actor, Michael B. Jordan is demanding Hollywood to step up when it comes to fair hiring. At a Los Angeles protest for Black Lives Matter, Jordan spoke to protesters about the importance of forcing Hollywood to become anti-racist in their hiring practices.
“You committed to a 50/50 gender parity in 2020. Where is the challenge to commit to racial hiring?” Jordan said. “Black content led by Black executives and Black consultants? Are you policing our storytelling as well? Let us bring our darkness to the light.”
How Hollywood Portrays Police
Hollywood has had a history of working with cops in all capacities. Many cop shows have relied on police cooperation to make sure their portrayal is authentic. Hollywood has a keen fascination with cop shows. I bet if you scroll through your TV directory you will pass at least two cop shows. According to The NY Times, The civil rights group “Color of Change” began a campaign in 2013 urging Fox not to renew the show Cops. They called on advertisers to withdraw support. Color of Change felt that the show glorifies police but will never show the deep level of police violence that we see in real-time.
Law and Order SVU showrunner, Warren Leight recently gave a statement stating, “NBC drama will tackle what’s happening now but also look at how it’s showcasing law enforcement.”
Los Angeles Times interviewed almost two dozen Black entertainment industry professionals, directors, producers, and many more. They discussed systemic racism in Hollywood, and the steps that need to happen to change.
Datari Turner: “Hollywood creates imagery for the world. Look on social media; you will see comments that 99% of cops are good, the majority of cops do not do this. A lot of this is because Hollywood has made more cop shows in the last 60 years than any other genre of film. “NCIS,” Law & Order, SWAT, the list goes on and on. The cops are always portrayed as heroes.”(Ryan Faughnder & Stacy Perman, Black filmmakers, and executives get honest about their experiences in Hollywood,” Los Angeles Times, June 2020)
Hollywood needs to take an industry-wide action plan to confront racism in the entertainment business. Start making immediate changes to their hiring process, casting, and much more. Be the leading force to make these well overdue changes in regards to racism and equality.