Sterling K. Brown Discusses the Power of Black Storytelling in Media: 'Seeing Yourself on Screen Validates Your Life'

Illustration for article titled Sterling K. Brown Discusses the Power of Black Storytelling in Media: Seeing Yourself on Screen Validates Your Life
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Sterling K. Brown paid a virtual visit to The Daily Show With Trevor Noah to discuss the importance of sharing and telling Black stories in the media. The This Is Us star explained that the beauty of the award-winning NBC series is that it gives an “interesting look at how much people can love each other and know each other but still not know fully about each other.”

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Brown, who won an Emmy in 2017 for his portrayal of Randall Pearson, adds that the show has an opportunity to create conversations with viewers who may not relate to the full breadth of the characters’ experiences, such as the color of their skin. Noah asks if there is a storytelling technique that Brown utilizes in order to get the viewer to empathize with Randall “without making them feel like they’re blamed as opposed to the system being highlighted.”

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“I think so much of the power of media is that people learn through exposure, whether it’s through travel, whether it’s through books, whether it’s through the representation that they see on screen,” Brown explains. “The demographic of our show is vast but it’s about 80 percent white...By virtue of them seeing me in their home 18 times a week, they can say like, ‘This dude, Randall, he’s just like me. He loves his kids. He loves his wife. I understand part of his struggle even if I don’t understand the totality of it.’ So hopefully the next time they see me or anybody who looks like me, they can lean in rather than step away.”

He also discussed the power of positive representation on television and in film, noting that “seeing yourself on screen validates your life...Because when you see yourself, you know that your story is as important as anybody else’s.”

Elsewhere in their conversation, Brown—who is nominated for two acting Emmys this year— discussed his work with the organization One Million Truths, which focuses on sharing Black experiences with racism as a means to educate the public about racial injustice.

“I think it’s a centralized way for Black folks to see other people’s stories and for allies who are interested to see that the experiences that their friends have told them about are not a one-off, that it’s not just something that happened in an isolated incident, that these isolated incidents are happening over and over again all over the country,” he explains.

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Check out their full chat below.


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DISCUSSION

To the people who have studied or are more informed with American/human behavior, is it a problem that some people need to see themselves on television or wherever they consume visual media in order to “validate” themselves?