What Privilege Looks Like in Entertainment

The #BlackLivesMatter movement has swept the globe. It’s time we discuss privilege in the entertainment industry.

I recently attended a webinar called “Black Artists Speak”, hosted by the incredible Mistressclasses mummies, Rhona Rees and Adrienne Lindsay. They invited several Black artists to discuss their experiences as actors, writers, directors, and producers in film, TV, and animation. I’ve had the pleasure of learning so much from Omari Newton, Bethany Brown, Deven Mack and Caitlin Stryker!

Here are a few struggles they’ve shared and something I will be more conscious of so that I know when to speak up as an ally.

  1. Privilege is never having to ask the Director of Photography if they know how to light up your face. Without getting too technical, camera technology is largely based on knowing how to capture a white person’s face – never a person of colour.
  2. Privilege is never having to wonder whether or not the hair and makeup team know how to style your curls or properly match the foundation to your skin tone.
  3. People of colour are often excluded in production, limiting the diverse voices needed for creating content. Often, executives and key decision-makers come from privileged racial backgrounds. In fact, 81% of showrunners are white men.

I encourage you to read this study on how crime TV excludes people of colour, miseducates the masses about the criminal justice system, and makes racial injustice acceptable. It’s quite eye-opening and sheds light on all of the extra hoops and obstacles Black people face in arts and entertainment.

We all have a part to play in challenging existing racial biases in the industry, no matter our role in the storytelling industry. We will try and fail (and try and fail again), but I encourage all of us to keep donating to anti-racism organizations, educating and unlearning, and holding ourselves and others accountable to be non-optical allies even when the hashtag is no longer trending.

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