The systemic problem

Stats:

In a survey of New York Times articles published in 2011, author and cultural commentator Roxane Gay discovered that nearly 90 percent of the reviewed books were authored by white writers.

Source: http://therumpus.net/2012/06/where-things-stand/

Among Amazon editors’ top 20 picks of 2014, just three authors were minorities.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/b?node=10207069011

14 percent of books published in 2014 were by or about people of color, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

Less than 1 percent of literary fiction and poetry books published in the United States are translations, and more than 60 percent of those are from Europe and Canada.

Source: http://www.rochester.edu/college/translation/threepercent/index.php?s=about

All of this stems from a systemic problem in the literary and publishing world. While it’s disturbing to know that the people who decide what stories can come to life are limiting voices and different experiences, it’s moreso unsettling to realize their justification for dismissing writers of color. They reject cultural references in books because they won’t be understood and even book covers are “white-washed” in order to satisfy “market demands.”

These practices are reprehensible. People are getting stripped of their voices, or are being covered with erasure strategies to re-write a story that fits the same narrative. As a writer of color, that narrative has always been fed to me and it’s always taken part of me to look the other way. No one should have to turn a blind eye to this, especially not in our current political climate. More than ever is it important to depict accurate representation. Movements like WeNeedDiverseBooks and Writers of Color fight for this representation by advocating for authors of color to write themselves into the narrative of American history. While there are noteworthy books that most people are familiar with, (Tori Morrison’s Bluest Eye or Alice Walker’s The Color Purple) that are written by people of color, they highlight matters such as racism or slavery. They are not valued for writing about normal experiences and thus limits their talent and leads to what the author of Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls the “single story, in which the work of minority authors is used merely to highlight differences and reinforce stereotypes.” The West doesn’t have a monopoly on love and loss, or any universal theme that ties a story together.

Data From USC’s 2016 Diversity Report

The following selection of data charts highlights the findings conducted by staff of University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Based on the statistics, it shows that Hollywood has a long way to go in in order improve diversity within the film industry (in addition to other entertainment industries).

Some facts within the report state that 7 out of 109 films had a diverse cast and that 26.7% of films with minorities cast for speaking roles.

Aside from race, the report mentions statistics from other societal minority group such as the LGBT community and women. For example in 2015, 3.4% of directors and 10.8% of writers were women. On the corporate level, 25.6% of the entertainment industry’s top executives were women and an average of less than 21% of top tier positions were held by women. Even though it is the 21st century, Hollywood needs to improve upon the lack of diversity within the film industry. Hollywood needs to stop relying on stereotypes and the practice of ‘older Hollywood’ in order to accurately represent the diverse members of society on the big screen.

The complete report containing the data below can be found here: USC Annenberg’s Diversity Report

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Citation:

Smith, Stacy L., Marc Choueiti, and Katherine Pieper. “INCLUSION or INVISIBILITY?

Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment.” Annenberg.usc.edu. USC

Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Feb. 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2017. <

http://annenberg.usc.edu/pages/~/media/MDSCI/CARDReport%20FINAL%2022216.ashx&gt;.

Black Panther & A Positive Representation

blackpanther

Photo from: http://geekandsundry.com/marvel-announces-director-for-upcoming-black-panther-movie/  

Black Panther is one of Marvel’s upcoming films for next year.

As synopsized by Haleigh Foutch:

“Black Panther” follows T’Challa who, after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T’Challa’s mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk.”

Synopsis From: http://collider.com/black-panther-cast-synopsis-filming/

The film’s superhero Black Panther was first introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War along with Tom Holland’s updated Spiderman. However, what stands out from Marvel’s previous films is that Black Panther features a majority black cast.

Here is the cast list:

Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa/Black Panther

Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger

Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, a Wakandan warrior

Danai Gurira as a member of Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s personal guard

Forest Whitaker as Zuri, an elder statesman of Wakanda

Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, T’Challa’s friend

Florence Kasumba as a member of Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s personal guard

Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross

Angela Bassett as T’Challa’s mom

Andy Serkis as Ulysses Claw

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Photo from: http://imgur.com/gallery/NB3LV

 

Joe Robert Cole (left) and Ryan Cooler (right)

Director: Ryan Coogler

Screenplay by: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole

Black Panther’s director Ryan Coogler is best known for his films Creed and Fruitvale Station which both star Michael B. Jordan as the lead character.

With the exception of Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis, most of the main characters are played by black people. As screenwriter Joe Robert Cole states:

Black Panther is a historic opportunity to be a part of something important and special, particularly at a time when African Americans are affirming their identities while dealing with vilification and dehumanization. The image of a black hero on this scale is just really exciting.” (Interview from: “Oscars so White? Black Panther to the Rescue”)

In other words, Black Panther marks the first superhero film in the Marvel lineup which showcase people of color with a positive portrayal. Instead of being portrayed as thugs or criminals, this film will present T’Challa as an intelligent King and the other characters as warriors and strong individuals. Hopefully with Black Panther, it changes how people of color are commonly represented within Hollywood films.

 

Citations