Arts and entertainment

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve discussed the lack of equal opportunities for Black Americans in the financial services space as well as our country’s education system. [Internal links to past 2 posts]

However, the United States arts and entertainment spaces are not exempt from the list of sectors where inequality has existed for decades. 

From your Netflix queue to your preferred Spotify playlists, there have been numerous examples of unequal treatment towards minorities that are finally being brought to light. 

In this post, we’ll explore the unequal opportunities that exist and have existed within the U.S.’s arts and entertainment, including:

    • Television and film
    • Musicians and bands
    • Actor interactions

Racial Inequalities Demonstrated in TV Episodes and Films

If you’ve ever binge-watched each episode of The Office, then you know that there are racist sentiments that are included within the modern-day content that we’re consuming on a regular basis. 

Concerning the television and film industry, there are some proactive changes that are being made in order to address unequal treatment towards minorities, and specifically Black Americans, that have been showcased previously. 

In response to the protests as a cause of the police killing of George Floyd, there are a variety of TV shows that have recently become canceled, or reconsidered in general. 

As a movement towards defunding the police has intensified, both Cops and Live PD have been canceled by Paramount Network and A&E respectively.

In fact, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a comedic show that displays police officers as the main characters, is changing its new season to incorporate the protests.

Popular shows including 30 Rock, The Office, Community, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Scrubs have been pulled for featuring characters in blackface.

As far as films are concerned, in June, HBO Max pulled Gone With the Wind before re-adding it with a pre-movie note, claiming “the film’s treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacy of racial inequality.”

It’s about time that these racist scenes are addressed, and changes are enacted in order to ensure that the derogatory sentiments linked with them won’t become perpetuated. 

Institutionalized Racism Exhibited in the Music Industry

Bands that had names that were linked to the Confederacy have been in the process of rebranding in order to drop these ties. 

For example, The Dixie Chicks removed the word “Dixie” from their band name to become The Chicks. Lady Antebellum shortened their name to Lady A (even though it’s important to note that the band was unaware that a Black singer has been referred to as Lady A for two decades). 

However, the music industry has issues concerning inequality that exist from the top-down, and it nurtures institutionalized racism by failing to support equality from an executive level. 

Take note that out of Sony Music’s twelve board members, only one is Black. Similarly, their competitor Universal Music Group has one Black board member out of eleven total. 

Although these groups are being run by white Americans, they are fuelled by Black American talent. Consider that Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ was the most popular song of 2019 with a record nineteen weeks at number one, but wasn’t nominated for “Song of the Year” at The Recording Academy’s Grammy Awards.

Hollywood Celebrities Face Personal Accountability

In addition to addressing unequal opportunities for minorities that are displayed externally within U.S. art and entertainment pieces, there is also accountability arising at an individual level. 

For example, two Black actresses, Samantha Ware and Naya Rivera, from the popular TV show Glee have recently claimed that their co-star Lea Michele (one of the show’s leads) mistreated them while they were on set. 

The two actresses stated that Michele maintained “racist microaggressions about Black people” while they were working alongside her, and other actors and actresses have stepped forward to confirm these claims.

Actors and actresses are not alone—even TV personalities are being called out for unequal treatment towards their minority counterparts. 

There have also been reports that Ellen DeGeneres has maintained a toxic, racist workplace where minority employees have faced discrimination. 

Hopefully, examples such as these ones will prime Hollywood celebrities to take responsibility for their disrespectful statements and recognize their unequal treatment towards their minority peers.

Considering that some United States citizens regard celebrities as role-models, they have the opportunity to lead by example in an effort to combat racial inequality in the U.S.. 

Making Changes in the U.S. Arts & Entertainment Spaces

Although it has taken time, it appears as if the U.S. arts and entertainment spaces are seeking to make changes to address their exhibitions of unequal treatment towards minority groups. 

However, it’s important for us to ask: Is enough being done? 

For example, is the allyship that’s being displayed through different celebrity expressions, particularly across social media outlets, performative allyship? Or is it genuine? 

Are these individuals just posing without truly making the real changes that are necessary to prevent racism?

In order for changes to be enacted, we must answer these questions.

Next week, we’ll explore racial inequalities within the U.S. criminal justice system.

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