The country is experiencing a racial awakening in response to the police brutality protests that are still taking place after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths. Anti-racism books are flying off of shelves, streaming services have dedicated blocks of programming to Black shows and movies, and general interest in Black stories has risen for weeks. However, despite eyes finally opening to the difficulties faced by the Black community, we still have a long way to go.
Actress Kerry Washington spoke about Hollywood’s lack of diversity in a new interview with Hollywood, The Sequel, a brand new podcast by LAist Studios. Washington was on hand to discuss her new documentary The Fight, and to talk a bit about how Hollywood could work towards an anti-racist future. For starters, she believes the entertainment industry should practice what they preach.
“When we say we’re committed to diversity, it’s diverse from what?” she asks. “We’re still centering whiteness as the most important thing and inviting diversity around that...When we talk about inclusivity, there’s still an in and an out. So, we’re still centering certain kinds of people and maybe in tiny fractions allowing other people to the table. There’s just so much of it that needs to be reexamined.”
The Scandal star also reveals that the respect for Black lives is “not a moment of revelation” for her personally, but she’s grateful to see the support for the Black community coming from all corners of the world. She hopes that, by education and a desire to understand, experiences for Black people across the industry can improve.
“I think what people are realizing is that it’s not enough to just not be racist,” Washington continues. “Because our [institutions] were built in the fabric of racism; because our country was born with Black Americans being designated a fraction of a human being...we have to be actively anti-racist.”
Washington is not the only actor who has spoken up recently about the racial disparities in entertainment. During a Black Lives Matter protest earlier this month, Michael B. Jordan said that we need to start demanding diversity in the workplace—and that Black stories need to be told.
“I use my power to demand diversity, but it’s time the studios and agencies and all these buildings we stand in front of to do the same,” he reportedly said, per Variety. “Where is the challenge to commit to black hiring? Black content led by black executives, black consultants. Are you policing our storytelling, as well? So let us bring our darkness to the light.”
However, entertainment attorney Jaia Thomas gave more insights in a guest op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter regarding Hollywood’s lack of diversity behind the scenes—specifically, how some of those who preach inclusivity onscreen don’t always keep that same energy for the other people on their teams. She heads Diverse Representation, a national database of “Black agents, attorneys, managers and publicists.”
“Operating the company has taught me a lot about the nuances of Hollywood’s diversity challenges,” she writes. “I have learned that many artists, even those who are the most vociferous advocates for diversity, often treat the makeup of their own teams as an afterthought...As we enter into this new season of racial awakening, my hope is that artists spend less time looking externally for solutions. Now is the time for artists to ask themselves: “Do I have a Black attorney? Do I have a Black publicist? Why not?”