The Absence of Black People is not the Evidence of Racism

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We have bigger issues, folks.

Let me state this simply, black people do not have to be everywhere. Yet, some people truly believe that the absence of black people from mainstream TV shows (or movies) is always indicative of racism or racial insensitivity by the creators, producers, and in some cases, the very viewers of the shows. To be fair, more and more frequently, this indictment is raised every time a TV show and/or movie has the “audacity” not to represent every demographic class that can be represented. In these instances, all who are not represented, under represented, or unfairly represented assume the maker(s) of the show is racist, insensitive, biased, or some derogatory combination of all three or worse.

Cast of GIRLS

Cast of GIRLS

The most recent show to receive this reputation is HBO’s hit series and Emmy nominated show, GIRLS. Many critics wondered why the show did not have sufficient minority representation. If you’re unfamiliar with the show and need a quick summary, read this post. If you think only black people were offended by the lack of cultural, social, and economic diversity on the show, you would be mistaken. Just check out the titles: The Huffington Post: New HBO Show And Lena Dunham Face Backlash On Racism And More; and The NY Times: Broadcasting a World of Whiteness. You know we’re living in crazy times when even white people are offended by the antics of other white people, especially when the latter white people believe the former white people’s antics should be offensive to people extending beyond white people. Judging by the number of headlines this story has grabbed, I must logically assume that like black on black crime, white on white criticism is only slightly less devastating to the overall demographic it predominately affects. However, not to be outdone in the self-loathing caused by the racially un-diverse atmosphere that is GIRLS, Lauren McEwen of the Washington Post, a black woman, concludes, “A show called ‘Girls’ needs women of color to truly live up to its name.”

Of the many complaints I’ve heard about GIRLS – and there are many – I must say McEwen’s is honestly one of the most impressively misplaced. If I’m being completely honest with you, I do not even find it particularly logical. By McEwen’s logic, shows like Two and a Half Men do not have enough little people represented and Two Broke Girls does not have enough broke people represented and is likely sexist considering men can be broke, too. Of course, GIRLS is only one of a long list of shows accused, accurately or inaccurately, of not fairly representing America’s diverse inhabitants. Let us review a Tweet posed by Touré to the creator of GIRLS on why the lack of diversity on the show poses such a threat to our collective, if not imaginative, view of America.

The uncomfortable answer – although it should not be – to this question is, “Yes.” Is it so difficult to imagine a world where everyone’s group of friends is not a United Nations representation of all races, ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds and sexual orientations? You need look no further than your own group of friends (real friends, not social media “friends”).

How representative are your friends compared to the racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity of America as a whole? I will not presume to know, so I’ll analyze myself. Despite the fact that my family inhabited the suburbs for most of my formidable years, many of my close friends have and continue to look like and resemble me. Have my daily interactions been filled with racial and cultural diversity? Yes. Nevertheless, when I’m heading out to a social function or a serious issue arises in my life, I find the faces I choose to surround me for support are often monochromatic and homogeneous in representation. Does this lack of diversity and representation in our social group make my friends and I inherently racist? Excuse me if I have my doubts.

The Absence of Black People is not the Evidence of Racism

In my opinion, not only it is possible for a young NYer of most any racial background not to have any “black or brown friends,” many NYers already exist that do not have any black or brown friends. Frankly, the people most likely to have “black or brown friends” are black and brown people themselves. Despite this fact, I have yet to see a Caucasian “cultural critic” challenge a black or brown person for not demonstrating what they view as enough diversification in their social circle by having a sufficient amount of white friends.

Lena Dunham does not need to answer Touré’s (I assume, purposefully ignorant) question, because it is not a hypothetical question that needs addressing. It is already a reality for many people. Although I imagine Touré surrounds himself with people representing a wide array of racial, cultural, and sexual orientations, this is not the reality of most people in America. It’s not even really an accurate representation for most people in New York. Honestly, with 223 million white people in America and only 38 million blacks, there are simply not enough black people to go around to befriend. In case you were wondering, even if we added in all the “browns,” there still would not be enough. This is one of many reasons why the majority of people have a minority of diversity represented in their direct social peer groups. Therefore, is it crazier to assume this is the reality Lena might have faced living in New York in her early 20s or is it more likely that she decided to take her pent up racism to the big stage by developing a show devoid of an arbitrarily sufficient amount of black and brown characters?

You can draw your own conclusions, but to understand the hype, I watched the first season of GIRLS for myself. I thought it was a legitimately funny show with talented writing and interesting characters, but I have no concrete plans to watch Season 2. I did not stop watching because there was not enough black representation on the show – honestly, I did not even notice. I will not watch the show because I cannot relate to the struggles, trials, and tribulations of young, 20-something, white women. In other words, while I found the show enjoyable, I concluded that the central premise of the show was not for me. Rather than start a crusade to make the show mold around my expectations, I simply stopped watching. Back in the day, this is what people did when they did not like a TV show, movie, or song. They demonstrated their dislike by not watching or listening. If enough people demonstrated similar disinterest, the show/movie/song went away. This is far too benign a conclusion for today’s society. Today, a news story, blog, #hashtag or petition must develop every time people do not like a person, place, or thing they are perfectly capable of avoiding.

What happens when everyone, not limited to black people, must be fairly and equally represented in every show/movie and every show/movie must please everyone who views/listens? There is only one obvious conclusion…read more.

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  • Matt

    Round of applause.

    I agree whole heartedly. I find myself vexed to no end when people are offended because their particular group is not in the lead roles of a TV show they watch.
    Life isn't one perfectly mixed salad. Not everyone has friends of color.
    Not a big deal.

    • Ray

      And that is EXACTLY how I know you are white.

      • Desiree

        Actually Ray, he makes a pretty good point. I may even agree with him. And I believe he is a black man– married to a white woman.

      • Blatino

        and that is exactly Ray how we know you are an idiot.

    • AriaDuPianza

      Not everyone has friends of color, but that doesn't mean that media shouldn't promote it more. Look at the LGBT movement. The percentage of gays in America is only 3-4%, yet in the past couple years it seems like every tv show has a gay friend in it, although that is not true in real life and statistically impossible. The reason why they're putting them there is that the media is promoting sex orientation equality, and they are trying to get life to imitate art. I think they should put more people of color on tv.

  • Yvette

    Here’s what I view as the problem:

    1) There aren’t enough shows on television which represent the black (or Latino or Asian) experience, so we somehow believe that we need to force our way onto white shows in order to be heard (not saying it’s RIGHT, just what IS). This is slowly changing with shows like Scandal and Deception, but we’re still not even close to being there.

    2) When’s the last time you’ve seen a show on a MAJOR network (NBC, ABC, or even HBO) with an all black cast? I think even if a show is supposed to be about the black experience, that there’s likely going to be a token white character thrown into the mix. You know why? So that white folks can relate to the show better, see people who look like them. Why can’t we (black people) be afforded the same consideration?

    • Smilez_920

      True but with point 2) there are a few dramtic shows on Major networks that have that ” token black “. character “. Honestly I don’t know too many black shows with a consistent ” token white character “. Every show isn’t going to have a lack person in one a the main roles. I mean I saw an episode of Girls last night , and didnt see an issue with there not being a black character. When we start begging white writers to write in ” token characters” in every show , we risk being horribly stereotyped. And then people will complain about that.

      • Blatino

        People will always find something to complain about; if the token gay guy is way too flamey (because its offensive to "normal" gay men), if the show is strictly about empowering women and there are hardly any male characters, if the show is all black (UPN anyone?) and there are no white characters, if the show is about the Latino experience and there are no white or black characters on the show… I could go on and on. As a gay man myself, I hang out intentionally with masculine gay men. Does that make me homophobic or even self-hating? Growing up, as a blatino, I hung out with whites only. Why? I will tell you why: because in the 80s boogie down South Bronx, none of my black/latino friends wanted to read books, listen to New Wave "white" music and discuss serious topics. So I had to turn to Whites. Is that my fault?

        We all hang out with people of our own skin color or who share our interests. Nothing racist or classist or elitist about that. If the intentions ARE due to internalized racism and actual self hate, then THAT is another story.

    • http://www.learninglover.com/blog AfterMath

      On the real, this is one of the many reasons I don't really watch most shows on TV. I like watching certain sports because we are represented there. And there's generally a diverse mix of our people regarding personalities, backgrounds, talents, the inspirational stories, and the mistakes made, and just things that I can relate to and things that inspire me.

      If I want to watch a TV show style thing, I'll either watch a movie or I'll watch something online like Awkward Black Girl.
      My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

    • niksmit

      I get your point about the same consideration, because I do notice White tokens on POC shows.
      However, I don't like tokens of any type. They mess up the flow when they're just wedged into a show randomly.

    • Dr. J

      Actually we had all black casts on major networks… and we screwed it up. Don't front like we didn't have South Central, Martin and Living Single. After that shucking and jiving for 5-7 years, white folks concluded that there wasn't going to be another Cosby Show or Fresh Prince anytime soon.

      • Yvette

        @Dr. J – Fox, which aired Martin and Living Single, wasn't considered a major competitor to the big three networks (NBC, ABC, CBS) until the late 1990s, so your point about these shows is moot.

        Even when you look at shows like the Cosby Show and Fresh Prince, there were at least white extras in the background. On Girls, you barely even see this. This lets me know that white TV executives at least CONSIDER the possibility that there's diversity in the world, they just choose to ignore it. It's actually pretty bizarre and insulting.

        • Dr. J

          That doesn't make the point moot at all. In fact, it really doesn't mean anything. The reason why it being a major network was brought up originally is because you're talking about access to the material. It's a broadcast channel. Everyone had access to watch Fox it was a major network, nobody said anything about competition with other networks.

          Also be careful allowing your perception to go too far. You don't know what the heck is going through those white TV executives, that's just how you feel. Also, this show is produced, written, casted by Lena Durham.

          There's plenty of diversity in the world. It's just impossible to believe that every white person interacts with Black people at some point in their life and they need to show that on TV. I literally can NOT wait for Awkward Black Girl to make it to TV. I can't wait to hear what you guys say then.

          It's an all white cast that ignores that there's diversity in the world. But when it's an all Black cast it's "Why can't Black people have something of their own?"

          I'm confused everyday.

        • Blatino

          Yvette, could it be that the show Girls, though based in NYC and NYC being a culturally diverse city, actually represents how white girls in NYC socialize? Some white girls actually socialize with their own kind and most of the time, it is not even racist but based on interests (white girl music, white girl fashions, white girl topics…), so why can't we be realist and admit that hardly any NYC latina or black girl is going to go for that? It's true. I grew up around enough black and latina girls from the ghetto (and even non-ghetto minorities) who wouldn't have anything in common with a bunch of suburban or rural white girls who moved to NYC or even white girls from Bensonhurst or Williamsburg.

          I have even witnessed black and latina girls in my 40 years on this planet who despise white girls in the city, give them dirty looks at every given opportunity, throw attitude and then ask why they can't make white girlfriends? The few black girls I knew who socialized with those types of white girls usually were suburban types who loved "white music" and grew up socializing with white girls, so they had everything in common… not to mention they "spoke White" (which is the derisive word used by my own kind to mock those of us who speak proper English).

          And for the record, I am not white. I am a blatino from the ghetto who actually had white friends growing up and got teased about it by my own kind just because I had more in common with white folks (interest-wise) than the people in my neighborhood. So is that a bad thing? Sheesh.

          Why must we find any opportunity to find racism everywhere we look? Most of my friends are gay only because most straight men are too uptight to hang with us. Plus, most straight men would bore easily at the topics we gay guys come up with. So are we heterophobic just because we stick to our kind?

          The problem stems from us wanting and demanding TV shows reflect real life but most of the time, they aren't accurate portrayals of real life. So should we force it? I think it would not be genuine but just to save face and avoid accusations of racism in this overly PC world.

  • http://www.learninglover.com/blog AfterMath

    Certain words are just meant to ignite fires, so calling a show "racist" is an extremity.

    But the point of a tweet like Toure's is that we're continually forced to imagine what it would be like if character X had been Black, or if it had taken place in Anacostia instead of Beverly Hills.

    You mention in your article a portion of America that many of us know about. But that ignores a large part of America. Like, if I watch Seinfeld (one of my favorite shows BTW), you'd think that people walk through NY for years at a time and NEVER see Black people. Not at their jobs, not at convenience stores, or walking down the street, NEVER. Maybe some people have that life, but I doubt it happens in NY. But even if it does, I doubt that its as often as these shows portray it.

    And to your point about the friends thing. Yeah, you're right, but that doesn't mean that I don't come across them. I go to work and I talk to other races all day every day. And I don't think I'm in some unique position of having White coworkers. Are my White peers in a unique position of having a Black coworker? I mean that's the image I get when I watch these shows and never see a black even pass in the hallways.

    Its a fantasy world. Its a world that they created where we LITERALLY do not exist. I'm not calling it racism, but I disagree with you that its reality.
    My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

    • http://www.singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery/ WisdomIsMisery

      We can agree to disagree on some points but I want to clarify something specific to this one…

      And to your point about the friends thing. Yeah, you’re right, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t come across them. I go to work and I talk to other races all day every day. And I don’t think I’m in some unique position of having White coworkers. Are my White peers in a unique position of having a Black coworker? I mean that’s the image I get when I watch these shows and never see a black even pass in the hallways.

      I can’t speak for New York so I won’t. However, ill use myself again. I live in Colorado where even the most populous city only has 8% African Americans. How does that translate? There are times when I, a black man, can go days (plural) without seeing another black or brown face. Also, I’m the only black male of three black people in my office. So, do I think it’s possible for white people not to run into black or brown people in significant numbers? Yes, yes I do.

      More importantly, these are TV shows, which means everyone who isn’t a central character is an extra. I’m not sure I understand the expectation, even if I understand the critique. Should every casting call account for an accurate demographic breakdown of the city it claims to represent? Are they only to hire extra based on the demographic or geography of the city? I guess I’m saying I don’t / wouldn’t tune into a show like GIRLS to receive a demographic lesson on New York City. Also, I don’t count the number of white, black, or brown faces I come across in real life as if I’m some kind of racial Count Dracula like census taker, “one, one black person, two, two black people HA HA HA” so why would I do or expect the same of a TV show? I tune in to be entertained. If the show is entertaining, then for me it’s served it’s purpose.

      Now if a TV show/movie is called “The Last Slave” like Hollywood’s “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise in black face, then I’ll be right there with all of y’all brandishing my Race Card. However, in this instance, I’m just not seeing it and I don’t think I’m colorblind.

      - Sent from iPhone

      • AfterMath

        I get what you're saying, but my whole point was that (stepping back from this particular show for a min) this happens too often in Hollywood for this to be such a freakin conincidence. Its not like EVERY idea that gets pitched in Hollywood is about somebody's life story who never sees Black people. I don't know much about this show, but I do remember this feeling I had in the pit of my stomach growing up despising certain shows because they didn't have anybody like me on the show, and from all I could tell WENT OUT OF THEIR WAY to exclude people like me from being on the show.

        Now, what should be done? I don't know. You can be like me and just not tune into these shows. You can ask them to hire more Blacks, I don't know how to fix my frustrations with this stuff, but for me to say it doesn't frustrate me would be a lie. Maybe its the AfterMath X in me who's just trying to call it how I see it. Like I said, not saying its racist, but its definitely something.
        My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

        • http://www.singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery/ WisdomIsMisery

          We appear to have two different perspectives on this issue, which is fine. Ill admit that when I was growing up there did seem to be more positive black shows or mixed races shows to choose from – The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince, and a Different World are a few that come to mind. But, even during this “hey day” of black shows, people still said there wasn’t enough blacks on TV. It’s possible Hollywood just gave up because they saw “damned if you/damned if you don’t.” It’s also possible there are less talented people pushing well-written black shows – I honestly don’t know.

          Where we seem to differ is on the expectation. Some seem to view “fairness” as blacks (or other minority groups) being represented on 100% of shows. To me, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. As I said in the post, whites are 70% of the market, so it doesn’t surprise me that an overwhelming majority of media is dedicated to them. With blacks only representing 13%, it also doesn’t surprise me that we are under represented. Therefore, for me, the only question is whether or not we’re sufficiently represented (debatable) and fairly represented when we are on TV/film/radio. I think this larger issue, which for the record was not apart of this specific post, is possibly a much more convuluted albeit reasonable debate rather than “are there enough black people on TV and is it ‘racist’ if they are not.” There are plenty of black people on TV (in my opinion). The problem seems to be that most people don’t think there are enough or there are not enough on good shows, which is itself is subjective depending on your taste in shows. However, just because a good show is on TV, as I think GIRLS is, does not automatically mean a black person should be added just because it’s a good show. People have convuluted this debate, and that wasnt my original point, but such is the way of the Internets. Folks aren’t going to let something like the topic at hand stop them from making a point about another topic they want to address. If we want to speak on whether there are enough black people on good shows, that is a different post completely.

    • Smilez_920

      @Aftermath… The main character (from what I know) is struggling unemployed writer. She's not even working in retail (where you see a diverse set of people) to bring in cash. The other friend is a waitress at an upscale bar/restaurant. There are definitely bars and restaurants (especially ones used for Wall Street, or industry events) were you will see few to no black people. She lives in Brooklyn, between the Barclays, the remodeling of Downtown Brooklyn and people realizing how valuable the waterfront properties in Brooklyn are now after the crack era, there are small parts of BK were you might not have any black neighbors on your block. For years there have been Jewish communities in Brooklyn that have only Jewish people.

      • Smilez_920

        COnt… Now if people just want more black extras in the city landscape of the show, I guess that can be done with ease. But the story is based on Lena Dunnam life experiences, maybe in her personal experiences “Black people have just been the scenic part of her life, and not personal friends”. I all for seeing more blk people on TV, but I want o see us create, write, produce the shows, not just beg to be on them.(Now if the show took place in DC, in an office or government job type enviroment, then I could see the argument.)

        • AfterMath

          Honestly, even if its the upper upper echelon of people, I'd expect to see some Blacks there. Maybe not a majority Black crowd, maybe not wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt Blacks, but yeah I'd still expect to see some Blacks.
          My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

        • Kopa

          Dave Chappelle said his pitched a show that was picked up by Fox, but they required him to have a more "internationally appealing" cast, meaning not as many African-Americans. So studio executives are definitely playing the race card.

          It is a very sensitive subject in the States though; Craig David had to change the video for his first video, because in the UK the video had featured a white girl. A no-no for a black man to do in the States, without causing much controversy. It's changing, but slowly. I think "token" blacks on tv-shows set in NY or LA is one way to change it, for sure. I was glad to see Lena Dunham include Donald Glover, even for a few episodes.

  • Smilez_920

    Most of the writers in the industry are White, so having a black character in every show isn’t going to happen until we get more people that look like us behind the scenes. Most shows that incorporate diversity in the cast are centered on work/school environment or family style sitcom ex: “Grey’s Anatomy, Law and Order, King of Queens, Shameless, The New Normal, Glee, 30 Rock, The Old adventures of New Christine”. Recently with shows like “Deception” and “Scandal” we are starting to see more black people in dramatic lead roles on big networks. In those cases I expect to see some type of diversity.

    • SMielz_920

      The show “Girls” is partial based on Lena life experiences. Maybe just maybe she’s never had a close black “black girlfriend” to base a character off of. Yes in this new season she is sleeping with Childish Gambino, but I’m sure there are quite a few white women who have had romantic experiences with black men and don’t have close black girlfriend. I’m not even a fan of the show, but come on if you want to see more of us on tv in that light, support more black indie film and online TV creators. People like Issa Rae started with online web series. I heard that she suppose to have a show coming out this year on a major network. TV Networks main goal is to make money, money first, diversity second; if we want to see more of us on TV we need to start being dedicated supporters to the black writers and creators who incorporate us in their programming.

    • http://www.singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery/ WisdomIsMisery

      Thanks for adding some “diverse” show examples. I meant to wrap back around and do this but the post was length……and….ok, fine, I just forgot.

  • http://glippost.wordpress.com Darrk Gable

    1. At this point in my life, I do not care. The only people who seem to get upset by the lack of diversity are the same types of people who go around hugging trees, and wanting to occupy Wall Street. That’s to say people who have the time to care. Most grown people with grown people problems don’t have the time to give a damn about it

    To the second question, it was.answered in the article. We don’t have to watch any show we don’t want to. The “kumbaya contingent” of society wants to make an issue of something that really isn’t. If a show doesn’t have a darker hued face in the friends, how is that any different than everyday life? Unless there is a long-term bond there, people tend to associate with those who look like them. If anything, TV tends to.accurately portray that. Don’t feed me some utopian idea of togetherness if that’s not real.

    And lastly, it’s the media’s job to reflect a pre-formed message. If they want to increase diversity, they will, but as long as people are watching these shows with or without a diverse cast, they’re not going to change, or care.

    • AfterMath

      I agree, but I disagree. Like, I didn't bring this up. WIM brought it up. I responded because he brought it up though. I'm not a Kumbaya guy though. I don't want a rainbow on every show. But when I feel like I'm being excluded, I'm not going to ignore that.

      Lets switch topics for a sec. Remember in the 70s and 80s when people were fighting to allow Blacks to play QB and all the backlash that caused. Its not that I don't root for an Aaron Rodgers, but to say that Robert Griffin couldn't also play QB is just wrong, but that's what they were doing. And the argument given by many was just that "parents aren't raising Black kids to be QBs", but what was really happening was that coaches were saying "you're Black, you belong at RB/WR/CB".

      So I'm not saying that we need to be Occupying Hollywood or something, but to act like this isn't taking place before our eyes is kinda like watching them try to play Warren Moon at WR and ignoring it.
      My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    +1.

    I don't understand why every show has to have a black recurring character, especially when blacks are only about 1/8th of the US population. Some white folks don't hang around black people, and vice versa. Not because there's any latent racism, but your friends are likely people who share your common interests, so they are likely to be of the same race. Adding a black character in the name of diversity is silly. That's why South Park jokingly added a character named "Token Black".

    While I can partially understand the complaint about not being enough black shows out there, that sounds like open market share to me. Make a good black show, don't complain about there not being one. That's what Tyler Perry did.

    • Larry

      "That's what Tyler Perry did."

      Exactly. But according to a few folk, brother Perry's attempts are frowned upon. lol.

      What was that old Bill Cosby saying? "I don't know what the key to success is, but I know the key to failure is trying to please everybody"

  • Dr. J

    Hmm… well brother, you did it. I don't know if I disagree with anything you said. I can't say I completely agree with everything you said. I think Girls is just fine though. Like it's totally and perfectly acceptable as a show. Whites gon' be whites, so I couldn't blame Lena.

    I also think that a few examples of adding Black people have failed miserably. They all but forced Jennifer Hudson into the SATC movie. That was like an awkward chemistry issue to me. But people loved that movie, so whatever. But then you have good examples of adding Black people. Like… Barney's brother on How I Met Your Mother is the GOLD of that show. Wayne Brady b*tch!

    Here's the problem that Black people need to understand and they need to own up to it… Black people watch trash TV at an alarming rate. While i'm watching HIMYM and Two Broke Girls, Black folks are watching Love & Hip Hop, Real Housewives, or some other trash ass reality show. Therein lies the problem… because TV programming is driven by ratings. You can't have 60-70% of every African American household watching Love & Hip Hop, 10-20% watching MTV Jams, and 10% watching HIMYM. All you're going to get is more reality TV shows. So to the Black people upset about the lack of diversity in TV, stop it. Just stop it.

    Persia White is half white. "Didn't have shit to do with this, but I just thought that I should mention."

    Jennifer Beals is half Black too, btw. We didn't find this out until like 4y years ago, but at least that makes the L Word cool.

    • http://www.singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery/ WisdomIsMisery

      *record scratch* Jennifer Beals half black?

      Yeah, I said the same thing when Red Tails came out – an ok movie at best (well shot, poorly writte ) – and everyone white person who didnt support the film was “racist” and every black person who didnt support the film was a “sell out.” Hollywood, including the TV industry, is monetarily driven. That’s why cheap reality shows keep getting made – cheap to make and people watch them. That said, if I came to you trying to sell you a business and I said “Business A is a good product but it’ll only appeal to 13% of the market” or “Business B is a good product but it’ll appeal to 70% of the market,” which business are you going to go with? In other words, green drives the market far more than black, white, brown, or yellow.

      • amaris79

        I feel like I was the only person who knew Beals was half Black and Mariah Carey was half Latina like 15 years ago, lol!

  • Dr. J

    And Toure is an idiot.

  • http://www.aworknprogress.com Diana

    Interesting post! I've only watched a couple episodes of Girls (not really moved either way) but it's funny I had just told my friend that I have no problem with the lack of Black folks on the show – I mean I just started hanging with white people like yesterday.

    But I feel like it's a catch-22. I'm old enough to remember when the JET magazine used to have that back page where it had all the mainstream shows where Blacks would make appearances that week. I mean that was a BIG DEAL! Then when I'm flipping through channels and looking at shows from my childhood: Cosby Show, Different World, Fresh Prince, Moesha, Living Single, Martin, New York Undercover (that Thursday night Fox line up) I get the sads that we, our kids, don't have shows like these anymore. Was that like a deal that was made as a portion of our reparations package – we got a few decades of seeing us on TV en masse, ensemble shows? And now we gets nothing? Of quality. Emphasis on quality. Because I remember when the NAACP would protest about coon shows.

    And I also remember that the NAACP used to protest every fall and make Hollywood put Black people someplace, somewhere, somehow in/on a show. Was that a good thing? I don't know. I don't like forced tokenism. I'm cool watching my Frasiers and Golden Girls and Will and Graces and not seeing Black people. And yet whether it's willful or not, there's something to be said,or it speaks volumes when you know you're not being considered when developing something to be consumed by the masses, as if you are not a part of the masses.

    So do we keep forcing our way in even if it looks forced? Or make our own at our own comfort levels? It all depends on validation means for you, the artist. Because if it's good enough, sooner or later mainstream will come knocking.
    My recent post Single Sickness

  • http://www.aworknprogress.com Diana

    Interesting post! I've only watched a couple episodes of Girls (not really moved either way) but it's funny I had just told my friend that I have no problem with the lack of Black folks on the show – I mean I just started hanging with white people like yesterday.

    But I feel like it's a catch-22. I'm old enough to remember when the JET magazine used to have that back page where it had all the mainstream shows where Blacks would make appearances that week. I mean that was a BIG DEAL! Then when I'm flipping through channels and looking at shows from my childhood: Cosby Show, Different World, Fresh Prince, Moesha, Living Single, Martin, New York Undercover (that Thursday night Fox line up) I get the sads that we, our kids, don't have shows like these anymore. Was that like a deal that was made as a portion of our reparations package – we got a few decades of seeing us on TV en masse, ensemble shows? And now we gets nothing? Of quality. Emphasis on quality. Because I remember when the NAACP would protest about coon shows.

    And I also remember that the NAACP used to protest every fall and make Hollywood put Black people someplace, somewhere, somehow in/on a show. Was that a good thing? I don't know. I don't like forced tokenism. I'm cool watching my Frasiers and Golden Girls and Will and Graces and not seeing Black people. And yet whether it's willful or not, there's something to be said,or it speaks volumes when you know you're not being considered when developing something to be consumed by the masses, as if you are not a part of the masses.

    So do we keep forcing our way in even if it looks forced? Or make our own at our own comfort levels? It all depends on validation means for you, the artist. Because if it's good enough, sooner or later mainstream will come knocking.
    My recent post Single Sickness

  • http://twitter.com/VCEbunny @VCEbunny

    I've never commented, but I just wanted to applaud this post!

  • Naija

    Good stuff, WIM.

    I've never seen the show in question, but I take it as fact that it makes no sense to pencil black people into a script for the mere sake of representation. I understand some of the general uproar regarding this issue, but it's a bit much at times. I recently had to lecture my girl for crying racism simply because some of the friendship circles in our program appear to have been constructed along racial lines. The actual fact of the matter is that people gravitate towards those with similar interests, and although it is true that we also lean towards those who look like us, the former tends to be the deciding factor.

    To answer your questions, I don't believe it is inaccurate for a show to have a unicoloured group of friends, but I also don't necessarily believe that it's solely black people's responsibility to come up with shows for themselves. The people who command a lot of resources and are behind big productions should actively be looking for ways to promote diversity without necessarily going the "token minority" route. Having a psychology background, I know that there is value in people seeing themselves represented (in a good light) on tv, but some progress is being made IMO, as I can think of some successful shows with minorities playing significant roles.

  • warrenaz

    No reference to the American Idol or Bachelor lawsuits. Saying Girls is the most recent example of the plight. Just waiting for the "black men don't complain about this stuff" comment.

  • MaggK

    Great post WIM!

    It's SOOO hypocritical to act like those girls on the show need a black friend… COME ON! You don't have any white friend either… *rolling my eyes*
    It doesn't make sense to add a black character just because we wanna see black people on TV (see what happens in horror movies: you black, you die first… -_-')
    Black people want "black tv shows" but "white tv shows" have to have black in them? Or else it's racism, lack of representation… Representation of what exactly?! In everyday life you will rarely see a group of friends that looks like Angelina Jolie's fam!
    Black people want black tv shows but they don't even watch it *tears*… Yall weren't watching The Game when it was a CW show… The ratings for black tv shows is low!

  • sawitcoming

    I know, right???? Girls was not written about us, so to complain because we're not on it is preposterous. Like we can't make a show about us? I would prefer us to be left out than to just throw some token in there with nothing to do or worse yet a stereotype token like ugly, fat mammy type or big black brute. Black folks have too much money in the entertainment industry to be complaining about exclusion at this point and time. If Tyler Perry can get a movie made and TV series, his haters can too.

  • Enigma

    This goes back to the lack of culture, and self-hate programming stemming from slavery; alongside the development in this country on a legal/political/social basis (See Slave Codes, Fugitive Slave Laws, and meritorious manumissions ).

    The Civil Rights movement gave us the idea that we would truely be able to relate to the white collective by virtue of simply being americans; period. This happened with the various groups of european immigrants that helped establish this country post civil-war.

    How does this relate to the behavior discussed today by the black community? I'll awnser that with an instance, and a study. The first is the March 2010 incident in Walmart where two identical dolls were sold at the time. The only difference between the dolls was the name, and skin tone. The 'black' doll was made cheaper and put on clerance, where as the white doll was kept the normal price.

    Walmart was called out for its choice here, but the issue here wasn't nessarily walmart; the issue was the buying demographic. The fact that the black doll wasn't selling says quite a bit, yet little attention is brought to this fact as to *why* that is. This leads me to the study.

    The so called 'Doll Test' conducted by Kenneth Clark in the 1940's was used to preach against segregation. The experiment was replicated later in many countries with any significant black population (the most recent to my knowledge being a CNN example done in 2011 that you can find on youtube if you like)

    The test was carried out by providing children with various colored dolls that could be associated with a wide range of ethnic groups. After the dolls were displayed, they were then asked a series of quesetions that inquired as to the child's opinion on what doll was 'more pretty' or 'more intelligent' or 'mean' or 'ugly.

    The original hypothisis was that most individuals would associate positive traits with dolls that looked like them, or closely resembled them. While this ended up being predominantly true for the white demographic, in both instances in 1940, and in 2011, the black demographic responded the exact same way; Preferring traits of everyone by their own, and associating their own traits with negativity.

    Cognitive Dissonance rears its head again; Our lack of culture is a huge reason why this stands to be so damaging. Becuase we can't 'truely' integrate into the white collective (they wouldn't be able to call themselves white anymore if we did) we're forced to take scraps of what's around us and try to form an identity. This leaves things like Regional Culture (chicken and watermelon is a SOUTHERN thing; not a black thing; sorry.) and pop culture.

    Notice the definition of 'black' tends to ride in the wake of these two things predominantly. While everybody can be affected by both; black people have not had anything to hold onto save for these 'soft cultures' Becuase we're supposed to be 'american'. I didn't mean to digress; but its important to get some context for the sense of 'betryal' felt when we see shows like GIRLS and see no representation.

    If I have an idea for a show, book, or production; and I list ANYWHERE that the cast is all (nonwhite) it instantly gets categorized as a nitch. These are considered difficult to market becuase its going to be sold to a specific demographic, and subsequently not seen as being a profitable. The reality of profits/ratings for seeing something black shows its face again.

    While you could technically say, "black people are upset that they aren't seen on TV, but won't watch their own shows". Its naive to think that you could possibly get into the root of why discussing just this example of the media. It extends to so many other things, and to truely get the right CONTEXT of how and why; you need to really look at the things leading up to this point.

    You'd be shocked how similar this is to why there's a lack of black business, for instance. Either way; I hope this brought a bit of perspective.

  • Grendel

    First of all, there are plenty of Blacks in T.V commercials and shows. In fact I believe they are over represented in MSM. Want more Blacks on T.V? Give up BET, and all the other Black only media outlets where they never show Whites, then I say we have a deal. If not, then give Whites their own T.V network.

    • Toe Ken

      Please name me 2 other Black only television outlets? You can include OWN, although Oprahs' network is more inclusive than any other. The point that is missed is not that every show needs "the token black" but rather that AA's as well as almost all other minorities are conspicuously absent even as peripheral or backdrop characters. That is a falsity of actual American reality and a disservice to everyone.

  • wvmmrh

    strange..i don't see asian groups bitching abut not seeing more asians in tv shows ,,or vietnamese not seeing more vietnamese or irish not seeing enough irish..blacks seem to believe that they're a special group that should be in the spotlight in some form or fashion in everything and everywhere./tv shows are created for entertainment not to encourage diversity//in fact i don't see the point in tv shows being created to encourage diversity.that's not the major role of a tv show..it's to entertain..and a producer or director should have the freedom to not add who'mever they feel they don't want to add,or decide to include,whether it be black white asian or whatever..blacks are NOT a special 'race' any more than the others are 'special'even though they seem to believe they are.i guess 2 and a half men should hae blacks,asians,vietnamese,latino,polish,irish,and every race possible as main characters on a weekly basis…good grief some of you 'special people' are idiots..and it's true,MOST people hang out with people of their own race.,that's a fact

  • http://hermelness.com HerMelness Speaks

    In the UK, certainly, the absence of ethic diversity in TV adverts does speak to racial slur. If our advertising is to be believed, ethnic minorities do not buy or cannot represent the purchase of, inter alia:

    1. Cars
    2.Shampoos and conditioners
    3.Washing machines
    4.Fancy meals
    5.Home furnishings
    6.Holidays
    7.Newspapers, magazines and books
    8.Paints
    9.Houses
    10.Banking time
    11.Confectionery
    12.Hair dye
    13.Flights
    14.Insurance
    15.Pensions
    16.Funeral arrangements
    17.Cereals
    18.Furniture
    19.Pet food
    20.Handbags
    21.Computers
    22.Perfume
    23.Anti-ageing lotions and potions
    24.Make-up
    25.Clothes
    26.Tootpaste
    27.Wine
    28.Electrical goods
    29.Plants
    30.Baby food
    31.Jewellry
    32.Wedding attire

    But nearly always represented when peddling fruit juice, rum, running shoes or non-white collar endeavours.

    Your English cousins could learn something from your side of the pond, where there does appear to be more representation of a diverse culture.

    With my best wishes, HerMelness

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