When Black Lives Matter is not just a hashtag. It’s what millions of black people face every day of their life, whether it’s racial profiling or racial discrimination. Over two weeks ago, the world witnessed the video of George Floyd. It shifted our conversations from COVID-19 to No Justice, No Peace. This horrible incident made the world stop and take a look at the reality for black people in America.
For so long, black people have had to work twice as hard to be better than their white superiors. This is especially true in the workplace. In Hollywood, stories come out each day of white celebrities’ cultivating a racist environment for their black co-stars, producers, writers, and directors.
For example, #unMuteny. This hashtag started when former “Glee” star Samantha Ware called out actress and former co-star Lea Michelle after Michelle tweeted about #Black Lives Matter following the death of George Floyd.
Ware tweeted in all caps, “Remember when you made my first television gig a living hell?!?! Cause I’ll never forget. I believe you told everyone that if you had the opportunity you would ‘s— in my wig!” amongst other traumatic microaggressions that made me question a career in Hollywood.”
When this tweet went viral overnight, the floodgates of support for Samantha Ware came out. Even some of Lea’s former co-stars spoke out about their experience with her. What really helped people call out discrimination in the workplace was when Actress/Singer Amber Riley decided to create a space for black actors, writers, musicians, and creatives to tell their stories with #UnMuteNy.
Black creatives should not have to endure racism every day because of their white counterparts. And yes, not every white person is racist, there are some who are allies that want to see change. But you have to be willing to hear the awful truth in order to do better.
As a black person, you have to act a certain way at work so your white colleagues don’t think you are aggressive. There has always been an idea of how a black person should act at their jobs because we don’t want to lose it. As black people we work twice as hard every day to provide better lives for our families. When women of color stand up for ourselves, people often call us angry.
Amid racial discrimination in the workplace, networks need to hire more black voices in every department of TV/Film. The time to see change in Hollywood is now. We want to see more black directors behind the camera directing stories that are for us. We need to see people who look like us actually live until the end of horror films. Or see a woman of color choose herself rather than a man. There are so many stories to tell from a black person’s point of view, but networks and studios need to want to see a change. It’s great to see companies and networks supporting Black Lives Matter making statements to do better, but actions speak louder than words.
For the last seven years, Candice Patton, known as Iris West-Allen from the hit CW show “The Flash,” has been using her voice to advocate for change in the hair department, the writer’s room, and production.
Patton has always used her platform to advocate for having black hair stylists on set. Not too long after The Flash began, the first time for Patton’s character, the audience had the chance to see Iris West-Allen with a different hairstyle–Patton’s natural hair.
I am a woman of color who has watched the show for a long time. It was significant to see someone who looked like me on television rocking their natural hair, especially in the comic book world. Over the years, Candice Patton has faced so much online hate from fans because of the color of her skin. When The Flash cast was featured on ‘Stars In The House’ in May, Patton talked about how she would receive death threats when she first started the show, and how no one really gave her the support she needed.
When hiring these black women and actors, networks should have the resources to protect their talent. Many of the CW actors like Vanessa Morgan and Mechad Brooks have taken to social media. They are sharing their experiences of online racism and the misrepresentation of diversity in network television.
Riverdale Actress Vanessa Morgan shared her thoughts on how tired she is of stories being written about black people that don’t stay true to our culture, and vows to fight for change. Former star of “Supergirl” Mechad Brooks shared how he almost skipped Comic Con in 2019 because of death threats for kissing his co-star Kathie McGrath.
If you plan to hire black creatives in the workplace, you need to be aware of what comes with that. Not just checking the box off your diversity list, but making sure they are protected and feel safe. Networks need to take the right steps in making sure black voices are heard and safe.
In order to do better, make sure you are listening to your black talent or creatives. Make sure you are providing a safe haven for them to work better. Give your black co-stars the support they need by standing with them and providing change. There should not be only one black person while the white counterparts speak as an individual in the room. While pitching an idea that centers around black voices, you have to make sure their story is told.
When they talk about the revolution happening right now, where do you see yourself fitting in? Start finding out how you can contribute to healing our society and being the change that needs to happen.