Editor’s Note: Rashad Robinson is president of the racial justice organization Color of Change. Founded in 2005, it has over 7 million members. Last year, he collaborated with actor and producer Michael B. Jordan to create #ChangeHollywood, an initiative that aims to offer tangible ways to invest in anti-racist content and authentic black stories, to invest in black talent and reinvest police funds to support black communities. . In a guest column ahead of Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, Robinson talks about the need for widespread industry change.
This week, we are reminded that Hollywood, despite its calls for diversity and social change, continues to strengthen systems that neglect the creative brightness of blacks in favor of the status quo. After the Golden Globe nominations and blatant denigration of black creators and actors, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group responsible for choosing the winners, has confirmed that it has no black members.
Lack of diversity and Golden Globe nominations push back representation goals in Hollywood – Commentary
The lack of black representation in these institutions should be shocking, but we know this is all too common despite recent industry overtures towards diversity and inclusion. This is not the only obstacle. Recent media reports, including the most recent in the Los Angeles Times show the pay-to-play tactics that some studios employ to enhance the rewards prospects of their programs, to the detriment of others who are under-resourced. The playing field is deeply uneven, especially for creators of color.
After we all witnessed the horrific murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the global protests that erupted in their wake, businesses and industries have spent millions of dollars pointing out to black people and our allies that inequality racial issues exist and must be corrected. Hollywood was no exception. After years of black creations trying to sound the alarm, change seemed possible. Calls for unity and transformation came from networks and celebrities, raising hopes that Hollywood would soon address its own systemic issues. Despite the momentum and a particularly brilliant year of work by black creatives, little has changed. Removing barriers for blacks to producing and sharing content must come with a reward for blacks for their success – in terms of pay equity and credit, and yes, rewards.
Hollywood’s demands to combat its racism are not new. For years, artists, producers, and advocacy groups have called on the entertainment industry to address the racial disparities that prevent black creatives from being appropriately recognized for their contributions to Hollywood. Now is the time for Hollywood to reflect and rebuild its systems so that they value black creatives, not as proof of fair representation, but as storytellers with work that will continue to shape and change the world.
These racial inequalities are apparent in many aspects of the entertainment industry, but one of the main issues is insufficient representation in award circles. Black writers, filmmakers, producers and artists today create some of Hollywood’s most compelling, important and dynamic content. Shows like Michaela Coel’s I can destroy you and brilliant performances like Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country, Zendaya in Euphoria or Uzo Aduba in Mrs. America being excluded from Golden Globe nominations is a clear signal of value within the academies that are the gatekeepers of the industry. When black talent is excluded from awards, they are not only overlooked, they are given the message that their brilliant work simply cannot compete with narratives that primarily prioritize white and mainstream stories and lives.
‘I can destroy you’ entirely snubbed in Golden Globe nominations
These camouflages are not only superficial, they have pervasive repercussions. All of the awards voters have a bias towards certain types of stories and productions, but Hollywood institutions like the Golden Globes have always sent the message that there are different rules and higher standards for black people. Nominations provide greater opportunities for creation, collaboration, and funding – essentially deciding which stories viewers see more or less, which creators and teams are employed, and who goes into those governing bodies. They also elevate work and can present new stories and storytellers to the world.
Many key actors in Hollywood have recognized that more black writers, black production crews, and black castings are essential to promoting more accurate portrayals of black characters and more holistic black stories, but still fail to give them the spotlight. recognition they deserve. This is simply unfair and unacceptable, and suggests that calls for racial equity have been performative. We need industry institutions to question their own standards, to be transparent about the diversity of their staff and crew, and not to rely on change only when well-known secrets of the world. industry, such as the exclusion of blacks in HFPA, are being made public.
At Color of Change, we work to create and improve industry standards that go beyond token hiring or marginal representation. Last year we started a new initiative with Michael B. Jordan called #ChangeHollywood. This initiative responds to the call to action with infrastructures that will create concrete and measurable solutions towards racial justice. We are creating tangible ways to invest in anti-racist content and authentic black stories, to invest in black talent, and to reinvest police funds to support black communities. We will act as an accountability engine for the industry and provide businesses, leaders, staff and talent with referrals, writers’ rooms and consultation sessions, as well as upcoming incentive resources to support follow-up. , including inclusion pilot template, databases, directories, audit. analysis and working group meetings.
We cannot continue to rely on rhetoric for progress. It’s time for Hollywood to do more than listen to generations of black creatives in and around its ecosystem. It’s time for Hollywood to act.
Color of Change roadmap for #ChangeHollywood is available here.