made rebloggable by request!biscuitsarenice asked:I was wondering if you had ever spoken to any of the Producers or Directors in the industry about the lack of racial diversity in the casting of TV shows and films. There are a lot of people on tumblr who talk about whitewashing and the lack of diversity, but do NOTHING but talk no action at all! As you are in the business I wondered if you ever had that conversation with the powers that be or would that end your career?
First of all, talking *is* action. I think that watching and listening passively without speaking one’s mind is really HARMFUL for the movement (whatever “the movement” is, in this case, supporting media that has more accurate representations of PoC- AND queers and trans folk, which I am personally adding for the sake of argument). How do you think positive changes get started in the first place? Accountants who are fed up with with Joss Whedon’s lack of diveristy in his casts don’t just book tickets to Los Angeles and start hunting down his show’s producers in Starbucks and yelling “I want to see more brown people on BUFFY!”
First the problem has to be realized. Then a community is formed of like-minded individuals who feel they have a safe space to share their thoughts and concerns and gripes. The community builds and builds. It doesn’t happen overnight. The community grows and changes depending on the demands of the world they live in. When I was in high school, I too had serious issues with the lack of diversity in the TV and films I watched, but I grew up in a majorly white suburb of Birmingham, Alabama and I had very few friends of color, and even less white friends that legitimately understood my struggle and were capable of having a conversation with me about it. The racism in Birmingham runs deeeepdeepdeep, so the conversations were usually doomed before they even began. What’s more, there was no such thing as tumblr in the 90’s, much less an inexpensive and easily accessible online community where a teenager could actively discuss things like this and feel supported, understood, and knowledgeable.
All of this is to say that the conversations I DID effectively have as a teenager about the inequality of on-screen casting were very important to me, and they laid the groundwork for more conversations that I would continue to have as I left Birmingham and went to college and then moved to NYC.
No movement starts without solidarity amongst peers.
No movement starts without a lengthy back-and-forth dialogue.
No movement moves without “talk”.
That said, it is pretty much impossible for me or anyone like me to make changes without having power. And power can be defined as many different things. No, you don’t HAVE to be an executive at a major TV network to incite changes (although that is definitely the easiest and most obvious way to make that happen). You can also be someone like Issa Rae who started writing and starring in her OWN tv-type show on youtube (“Awkward Black Girl”) or someone like Franchesca Ramsey who also took to youtube to use her own performance and writing talents to draw attention to the subtle racism black girls (and certainly other brown girls of different backgrounds) face everyday. You can do like Dee Rees did and write a movie and film a short that tells the story of a black queer teenage girl struggling with how to balance her sexuality with her connection to her family in “Pariah”. But what if you aren’t a writer? What if you are not an actress? What if you don’t have the means or the talent to create a tv show/film/youtube show/script that exemplifies the types of characters you want to see on your television screen? A chemistry major in grad school has every right to want to see changes in the media as a struggling writer living in LA does, but those two individuals are going to go about it in different ways. Maybe the chemistry major is going to boycott watching certain television shows or movies that have made a point to not cast leads of color in their casts. Maybe the chemistry major will start a tumblr called “fuckyeahblackactors” that lots of other people follow to show support and love for their favorite actors who don’t get as much screen time as their white counterparts. Maybe the screenwriter will write a film adaptation of “Mad Men” starring an all black cast with a few small roles for white actors thrown in for good measure. Who knows if anything concrete will directly result from these actions, but it will create a chance for people, black, brown and white alike, to have some discussions. There are many, many steps it takes to getting more brown people on tv, not just here in America, but internationally. There is a serious dearth of black people in the roles of director/producer/network exec, and THAT is why there are not more brown people on tv. It’s pretty simple. When white people are calling all the shots, you get FRIENDS. I don’t think it would be much better if black people were calling all the shots, either. I think there needs to be a healthy mix of powerful people of all different cultures and backgrounds in these positions of power. Our nation has a fairly healthy mix of lots of different demographics, so the people who make the decisions of what we watch on TV should obviously reflect that.
No, I have no plans to go to the president of a major network television show anytime soon and tell him he needs to put more PoC people on TV. For one thing, I AM PoC, and I AM cast, so they clearly made a good decision there and I am thankful for it. It’s not enough, of course, but the decisions to cast the way Hollywood casts doesn’t rely just on one person, (for ex. the major network president). As I am sure you know, racism is institutionalized, but that drips into TV world, too. The decision to cast this way lies within hundreds of years of obvious inequality that has been whittled down to nuanced and subtle inequalities in TV world that many white people don’t even (want to) recognize. As an actor at the beginning of her career, I exist in the lowest realm of important voices in TV world- I get NO say in what happens, I don’t even get much say in what I do, and certainly no say in my story lines. To have BIG power in TV world, I need to start producing and writing my own work, like Shonda Rhimes or Jada Pinkett. Or, what is more reasonable and possible for me right now is to keep the conversation going, telling my own stories to highlight the struggles that other people like me go through. I have a tiny comic about my life as a queer black woman and I also have a fictional comic about two girls falling in love in a queer community that I hope will appear as diverse as the ones I have experienced. Maybe when it’s done it will be turned into a movie starring lot’s of PoCs. Or maybe not. Maybe just one person will read it and it will be powerful for her personally and she will talk about it to her friends and that’s enough.
It’s “talking” that lays the groundwork for making massive changes in the future. I didn’t grow up in a community that was comfortable having these kind of dialogues with me. But I have now helped create such a community, within my own chosen friends and within the people I have met online that share my viewpoints. If I ever have a daughter, I can assure you that she will grow up in a household where both of her moms encourage these kinds of talks and show support and care when nurturing her ability to see injustices in the world and formulate her own opinions. Hopefully she will grow up in an environment where making changes the world over doesn’t seem all that far-fetched and impossible for her the way that it did for me when I was younger.
jasika nicole is so amazing
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