Why is the Universe full of White people?
Welcome, people from reddit. Before you comment on this post, may I direct you to the top of the page where the “Rules of Engagement” are linked? I suggest you read that page very carefully. You also might want to check out the Required Reading since the comment you’re about to make has probably been made by hundreds of others before you. ~ABW
For those of you out there reading this (all 6 of you) who don’t know who I am, I’ll poke my toe out of the closet a bit and reveal that I’m a science fiction and fantasy fan. I love the genre down to the core of my being. I love writing SF, reading SF, and watching SF television. I used to love watching SF television a lot more. now I’m just left wondering why the universe is so fucking full of white people.~Major case in point: Battlestar Galactica. I’m speaking of the new show here, not the old one. If you look at that show for about 10 minutes (any 10 minutes will do) you might notice that there is a major lack of people of color. It’s not a trick, that’s just how the whole show is. I don’t watch this show. I have watched some episodes and I have heard a lot about it, but I missed the mini-series and thus couldn’t get into it at first.
Here’s the story as I understand it: BG takes place in the present, but in a system far, far away where there are 12 colonies/planets of humans who are technologically advanced. They have lots of spaceships. Not just the military, but everyone. They built these robots called Cylons, but the Cylons were allowed to watch movies like Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix and got it into their heads that they would be happier if they blew up all the humans. So they blew up the 12 colonies and a bunch of the ships and decimated the human race until there were only like 50,000 of them left or something. All of the humans who were left piled on board this big ship called Galactica and the remaining civilian ships and ran the hell away from the Cylons. Now you’re caught up.
12 colonies or planets filled with humans. So far I have seen exactly 2 black people (one was killed 42 minutes after he showed up on the screen), one Asian person (who isn’t even human, she’s a Cylon in disguise), one Latino person (whose son, for some crazy reason, is played by a white dude), and that’s it. The rest of the people are all white. White people everywhere. This is stupid. If you have billions of humans on 12 planets I refuse to believe that only the white people would survive. Statistics say so. Unless there weren’t many black people on the colonies to begin with.
I think the backstory is that Earth was the home colony that people flew away from millennia ago. Apparently only white people were smart enough to build spaceships to fly away from earth and took along a few darkies so that they could create some ‘exotic’ babies every now and then. Or maybe SciFi channel just sucks ass. I think that might be the case.
What else can you say about a network that allowed the guy who made the Earthsea movie turn all of the people white except for that one guy? On Stargate the black people are all slaves, but the white people might be slaves or they might be rulers or they might be accountants. On Atlantis they gathered together scientists and military folks from countries all over the world, and yet the only person of color from Earth is the one military guy. All of the other black folks come from another galaxy. From backwards, tribal planets no less. Oh, except for that one Asian chick in that one episode.
Don’t get me started on Andromeda.
I’m not the only one who noticed this. A guy named Max wrote a letter to SciFi Channel’s Science Fiction Weekly called Atlantis and Battlestar Dis Diversity saying pretty much what I’ve said here. This, of course, brought privileged white people out of their dark caves to make ignorant-ass statements like:
If Max’s logic is to be followed, then it is apparently impossible for anyone to enjoy, sympathize with or understand any on-screen actors, storylines or characters which are not explicitly of the same gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity as the viewer.
Is this what results from so-called diversity consciousness? Thinking which has become so narrow, and empathy which has become so shrunken, that we’re now more isolated as human beings than ever before?
I am amazed that anyone who consumes fantasy or science fiction can still play the racial bean-counting game. Hell, half the time, fantasy and science-fiction heroes aren’t even human, to say nothing of foolish quibbling over skin color.
from Racial Bean-Counting Is Bogus by Brad R. Torgersen
Brad is clueless on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start. But the language he uses reveals his not-so-hidden prejudices:
When Ripley was battling the horrible aliens, I didn’t have any problem getting behind her, even if she was a woman. When Morpheus went to war with the artificial world of The Matrix, I cheered, even though he was black. Adama, as the leader of the refugee Colonial fleet, is a very sympathetic figure, even if he is Hispanic. Angela Bassett’s character Mace, from the under-rated movie Strange Days, was my favorite in that film, even though she was both female and African-American.
Good to know that even if someone is so unlucky as to be Black, Hispanic, Female, or any combination of those, it’s still okay to cheer for and like them. Even. If.
The current letters page has a thoughtful response to Brad’s little rant (see Race Will Always Be With Us on March 10). My own response is that it’s very easy for those who don’t have to think about race (read: white men) to say that ethnic minorities should stop counting how many ethnic minorities are represented in the media they watch (not to mention how they are represented) and just enjoy the fact that there are some. That’s just ignorant, people. Ignorant.
White, heterosexual men have the luxury of being able to turn to 99% of the channels beamed into their TVs and see themselves portrayed in a manner that makes them comfortable and happy. Most white women, do, too. Minorities of most any stripe do not have that luxury. This is especially true of ethnic minorities. Why do we ‘bean count’? Because we can. That’s not flippancy, that’s a fact. I can look at my TV and count the number of black people I see because there are so few of them and they tend to stand out in the sea of whiteness. I’m getting sick of it, myself. How about the rest of you?
At this point, I refuse to watch any more telelvision where the universe is full of white people. Battlestar Galactica might be a fine show. Well-written, interesting science fiction is hard to come by on TV. Well-written, interesting SF with an accurately representative number of minorities is about as hard to come by as diamonds in horse shit. It’s not acceptable any more. Television is On Notice as of now. If I don’t see more black people and other persons of color on my TV not acting like fools and niggers I will start a fatwa. And no one wants that.
(p.s. This isn’t a problem just in Sci-Fi TV, check out my Why is CSI so damn White? rant and the ensuing race war here)
105 thoughts on “Why is the Universe full of White people?”
Heh. Yup. “Even if.” Mighty uh white o’ him…
and I think that the “Sci-Fi Channel sucks ass” is a reasonable postulate. For a number of reasons.
I’m not much of a sci-fi person–or, well, I’m picky; I generally like the stuff that falls under “fantasy” more than SF proper (Neil Gaiman, say); but there are a handful of primarily SF writers whom I love to read on theory, if not so much necessarily the actual stories (yeah, I’m prosaic that way sometimes). Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, for instance.
Hi ABW, it’s the pissed off old German-Eastern-European American Woman here. I agree with you about science fiction. Remember when Richard Pryor commented about Star Wars and he said he was a bit disturbed that Lucas’ version of the future didn’t include people of color? (I’m putting it a lot more politely and a lot less effectively than Pryor did). After Richard’s comments, Lucas at least cast Billy Dee Williams (swoon) in the second picture.
Today’s science fiction shows with lots of white people will always be fiction, because 500 years from now people of color are going to be more powerful than ever. (If we humans don’t kill ourselves). As my rock crit friend said, people of the future are going to be tri-racial, like Tiger Woods or Prince.
Two words though, of which you are aware but others aren’t: Octavia Butler. I was upset a whole damned day when I discovered that this American genius had passed away, because I’m just getting into her work.
I’m fascinated that you would draw so many conclusions about me. Did you even read the full exchange between myself and Nora? If ever you want to get past your own apparent racism and have an intelligent exchange about the SFW letters argument over racial bean-counting and people being mad that BSG is “too white”, feel free to drop me some mail.
fabucat’s comment about our mixed-race future is precisely my point, and was made in a letter to SFW which can be found here:
As mentioned before, Angry Black Woman also made a ton of assumptions about my motives, which I think are pretty well debunked in my letter, because they are the assumptions many people make when I argue for transparency.
By the way, if it sucks so bad that Sci-FI has too many white people, why don’t you lobby BET for some F&SF productions? Tired of Euro fantasy worlds filled with caucasians? Write your own and get them published. The ancient histories and pantheons of the aboriginal people of Australia or the inhabitants of Africa seem to be rich fodder for this kind of development.
Personally I think it’s sad that anyone who enjoys F&SF can be so totally stuck on race, that they feel they need to boycott or pitch a fit until “more people like them” start showing up. As I have already stated, half the time in F&SF the heroes and main characters aren’t even human, so why the huge hangup on skin color?
Let’s shave Chewbacca and find out what color he is! He’s probably white too! AIIGHEEEEEEEE!
First, no, I wasn’t aware of your further writings on the subject. I will admit, I really don’t care. Not because I’m trying to put you down, just that I always feel when one has to further explain a point and keep backtracking or going over and clarifying it means one of two things. Either you didn’t have the ability to be clear and concise in the first place or you’re trying to spin your words so that they (and you) seem less objectionable. I don’t know which is the case for you and I’ll not assume, since you take objection to that.
I will say that I did make assumptions about you based on your words because that’s kind of what people do. If you sound like an over-privileged, sheltered white male in your writing I have no other point of reference, therefore must go with that image until further information comes in. Frankly, the further information hasn’t changed my image of you much. It’s lovely that you’re married to an interracial woman and have an interracial daughter, but that doesn’t mean your comments and views are any more palatable to me. I need to whip out the White Bingo, I think we may have a winner here.
It is usually the MO of people like you to make ignorant statements and, when challenged, pull out your non-white person street cred. I have 3 black friends! I have a (sort of) black wife! I taught a diversity course at my local community center! All lovely things. But they don’t mean squat if you can’t get the basic things right. And the basic thing is that we are never going to have a transparent society. People are never, ever going to automatically just look at people different from they are and think “person” without any other adjectives attached. Humans are not wired for that. It’s not an excuse, though, it just means that society has to work harder. And society isn’t helped by folk like you telling us brown people to stop counting how many of us are on the TV and go write something, instead.
You made an assumption about me, too. You assumed that I haven’t written SF/F with non-white people in it or haven’t done something to make SF/F television a little more equal. That’s just like a white man – to assume everyone else is just being lazy.
Firstly, I would never ask BET to put on any programming because, contrary to your assumption, I don’t watch or like the network. I think it’s stupid for you to say that if I want to see people of other races, skin colors, and ethnicities on the screen I should confine myself to one channel instead of looking for it on every channel or, at the very least, the channel dedicated to this kind of programming. All of the brown people in this country don’t live in one city, why should I look to only one channel?
As for your accusation that I’m ‘stuck on race,’ I will have to say Yes, I Am. Can’t help it. You have the privilege to ignore race when you want to, even in your own home. As a person living in brown skin, I cannot. But thank you for making me feel better about that.
Also, even when the characters in SF/F aren’t human, they are often white people culturally. Just making the girl’s skin green doesn’t mean that the responsibility to portray other cultures and viewpoints is absolved. I don’t know what kind of culture Wookies have, but even if we shaved him and he was blue, it wouldn’t matter if he still acted like an over-privileged jerk.
I’m so glad you called BRad on his
faulty logic and bullshit. More people need to be shown a mirror about how
lazy they are when it comes to issues of race and ultimately, humanity.
Belated — just saw this blog entry. I started following your blog a few months ago, ABW, but it must’ve been after this. Always wanted to say hi, so I’ll say it now: hi fellow black female SF fan/creator/changer of the world! =)
I find it fascinating that Brad feels he made his case on the SciFi.com forum, because he never responded to my last post and never addressed several of the points I made. But then, maybe there was no need; he clearly hasn’t tried to see a different perspective on anything. Ain’t willful blindness grand? Don’t blame that on privilege, ABW — lots of folks coming from privilege are willing to listen to reason when confronted with evidence of their own biased assumptions. Brad’s refusal to listen is something entirely different.
(Side-note: I always find it amusing, and a little sad, that SF people — who are supposed to be open-minded, future-focused, and so forth — are always the ones clinging so tightly to these bizarre all-white fantasies of the future. But I guess even progressives can find the future frightening, especially when it’s not All About Them.)
Maybe the white creators of the sci-fi shows came across those online articles stating how the white race will be extinct soon. Or they probably feel more comfortable with a majority white cast. Who knows, but I’m getting tired of flipping through channels and seeing a majority white cast too. This shit is crazy. Especially when they do the interracial pairing shit on shows now which is mostly Black man/other woman. I rarely watch television these days. I will watch the news or just read. BET is owned by Viacom if that’s the name, which makes the channel suck even more. It’s funny though because here, we have two channels for Black Entertainment. BET, and UPN. The rest of the channels mostly are full of white folks. Damn is their world that small, that they don’t realize in the this big world they are really the minority? I used to love superheroes. But they hardly ever make a Black woman super hero, and as the lead character. I always wanted to see that. A Black woman with an Afro, her sword, in a beautiful outfit fighting crime. But you just don’t see that, and please don’t say Storm from X-men gawd. She’s probably the only one. I don’t want to see just more Black people in shows, I want to see Asians, Hispanics, Indians, Native Americans[I saw a Native American on television ONCE and that was it], Hawaiins, eccetera. When will that happen? I guess whites never get tired of seeing their own on television all day. And they say America has changed a lot over the years. How could it of changed, when whites ARE america? Peace.
Assalamu aleikoum…(sigh)…yes I am Muslimah and I understand your anger…believe me!
I stumbled across this site while in search of some other info. I was excited to see a strong woman expressing her opinion so freely(desperately needed in society today, no matter what color she is), and saddened that such creativity and intelligence is lingering here on this page…being eroded by this ire. When a human steps out of their skin, even for an instance, they can see the deeper issues of the world, like the civil unrest…A.I.D.S. epidemic…hunger…lack of medical care…American foreign policy..etc, etc, etc that faces continental Africa in the past, now, and seemingly far into the future. Africa is my paaion…my concern…and my future home. Scientists and religious scholars have agreed life began in africa…the motherland.
I will give you a bit of information about me…not that I feel it is important, but I think, maybe, it might give us a more personal feel in this place of faceless conversation. I am a 41 year old “white” female…reality is, my skin seems more dark, pinkish-orange…like an old peach…and in a few years to come I am sure will be as wrinkly. And, I am actually of mixed race, being as some of my ancestors were Cherokee, completely, before the white men came and tried to phase that out, as well as the Melungeons, which were phased out to the point that there is much speculation as to exactly what race they really were. I am divorced from an abusive relationship, single parent to 2 children, and engaged, after being single for 15 years, to an Algerian man. I live in the inner city in an apartment complex that is predominantly black. My friends are predominantly black, and my coworkers as well. I love sci-fi too, but I don’t have much time to watch tv…and I agree that whoever casts these roles or creates the characters needs to get a grip on real life. You have touched on emotions and subjects that my friends and I have discussed much in the past and presently. Our conclusion was/is you can’t change people that do not wish to be changed, but you can change yourself…in other words, we can live in this world, but be not of this world. I am sure you understand me well, being as you are a thinker. I can agree with you that I have not experienced the prejudice you have experienced…but I believe you haven’t experienced the prejudice(by ALL races) of being Muslim in this world of stereotypical thinking, false media, governmental parenting, and lies, lies, lies. I think here, we have reached common ground. Being, sometimes, the only white person on the city bus, I have experienced reverse prejudice by people who do not know me.
Now that I have introduced myself a bit, I would like to say something to you…I will use my own words and not Maya Angelou’s, since maybe something about a white woman using her wisdom would offend you and/or piss you off, and that really is not my goal. If you can reach inside yourself and try to fix the bitterness, forgive the past and all who do wrong to you and others…but never forget…and use your talents and gifts for the creation of some wonderful objective…girl…you can make some changes…I promise.
I know this has been long and drawn out, I am a writer and words are my strength and weakness. I apologize if you think I have wasted your time with my babble, but I do not apologize for trying. You are a pearl that needs to be found and polished. And, it is up to you if you choose to focus your abilities to do some wonderful things, or, at the least…I have given you something new to be pissed about or a new subject to build on.
Peace be with you my sister(you are my sister whether you like it or not), and may Allah bless you 10,000 times.
I got here via LJ, and I really liked your rebuttal, ABW.
Seems like the debate at Sci-Fi never ends. Why aren’t you covering this, ABW? There is fresh material here. New white people to bash. GET ON IT!
Great post ABW. I think it’s really important to challenge privilege and assumptions, regarding race, gender and sexuality. However progressive we think we all are, we can all get caught out by our own invisible privilege. I always find it amazing how racist these programmes are, and then, when called on it, the writers or whatever will try and deflect.
And I love Brad’s ‘You have one channel!!! What more do you want???’ That’s sort of like saying to all women ‘You have a quarter of the character representation in Hollywood films!!! What more do you want!!!??’ (there are other, disturbing percentages related to race, like less than 10% of characters are not white. I can’t remember where I saw the study though)
Whining about white people being bashed is ridiculous.
Maybe sci-fi writers cannot envision black people in the future because they have failed to understand them in the present.
I had just this complaint about Farscape. Why is the main character another J. Random White Dude? Why, even though there’s an “alien race” that looks just like humans, are there no non-white aliens? How come the only character that “reads” as black only does so because he represents all the stereotypical roles for a black man? (The black warrior, noble savage, magical black man, and mandingo.) I’m stuck somewhere in season 4 wondering when the “groundbreaking” this show is so famous for is going to start happening. I’m not holding my breath.
Yeah, if anything, the universe will be full of non-white people. I’m betting on the Chinese, if they can ever get their act together. They have something like a third of the planet in one country.
India’s another good bet for the future of space exploration (another country with a huge population and sufficient tech). Again, if they can solve their social issues.
White America’s had its day and I see it becoming irrelevant in a few generations unless we shape up and deal with our own problems instead of trying to be boss of the world.
I have a theory that when the cast of an SF show is mostly white, you can safely assume the visual ethnic cleansing is the first sign of more suckage to come in plot and dialogue. That’s certainly true of Battlestar Galactica. When Emma wrote on her coffeeem LJ about her lack of love for BSG, she got an amazing number of people showing up to say she couldn’t see its wonder. (Some smart people defend BSG because it was one of the few shows taking shots at neocons, but that’s not enough for us.)
I’m a little surprised that Battlestar Galactica comes from people who were involved in DS9, the only Trek show we liked: DS9 did a better job of looking like America than Buffy did. (We still love the first five seasons of Buffy, but we don’t pretend it isn’t set in a white suburb.)
As I look over SF, I’m reminded of an old–and unfunny–joke. The King of Saudi Arabia was visiting with Bush 43 in the Rose Garden, and mentioned, “My daughter loves Star Trek, but why are there no Muslim characters, no Arabic characters?” Bush thought it over and said slowly, “Well, you see, it’s set in the future.”
There are people for whom the ideal future is completely white, Christian and straight. There are people actively working to bring this about.
I write GLBT SF/F/H. To me, Brad’s comment is akin to what I heard in fandom all the time: don’t see what you want? Write it yourself! So I do.
Cherokee truckers, Crow clerks, Creole vampires, djinn and nagas, Israeli law partners, Irish sidhe, space amazons (in a rainbow of shades), Barbados pirates and female ninja populate my imagination.
Granted, there are a lot of “two or three white guys hooking up” stories, because I–like most people–have a comfort zone and I can bang those out quickly. Stepping outside that comfort zone takes an effort and time, but it’s effort and time well spent and yields a better story.
I enjoyed reading all the comments on this website. I have asked the very same questions myself.
There was a time when I was very frustrated with television because I felt saturated with the perspectives and lifestyles of the (white race).
Even now, when I see a Biblical Story or a movie like Cleopatra and all the characters are white with dark hair and speak with a British accent, I feel like puking.
For me as an African American woman, it’s not a matter of counting beans, it’s about part of mankind being afraid of the truth.
The (white race) has been so afraid to face the truth, that they have spent much of their existance trying to cover it up or change into what they want it to be.
Why else would a group of people spend so much money, time and effort changing the face of history, lying and covering up the truth? FEAR!!!
They already know who we are, they just want to make sure that WE DON’T!!!
Now, when I use the term “the white race”
I am not speaking of your average joe. Most white people are taught the same bull crap we are taught just from a different side of the fence. These are the people like Brad who genuinely believe in the “bean counting theory” and think we should just get over it.
People like this are not a threat. They just have a limited understanding of what is really going on in the world. They do not realize the intentions of the orchestrators.
The “pure race” the ones who are in control of government, finance, media etc….
could care less about anything and anyone except maintaining control.
They stick to a formula, keep us separated and focused on trivial issues while they screw us up the u know what.
There is no race, there is no separation, it is all an illusion meant to distract us. The media is just the most successful way to brain wash us with their lies.
And so, to the ABW and all who commented, be not distracted.
And Remember these words…
All Great Empires come to an end.
All things mixed with black are born black.
All truth comes to the light.
More often than not, other races in sci-fi/fantasy novels will appear as entirely different species, and will only exist according to the most convenient stereotypes (for the purposes of identification). You don’t need black people in Star Wars, you already have Jar Jar to play the Sambo. You don’t need Asian people to appear in fantasy novels, you just need ever present Mongol hordes or ninjas. It’s patronizing for these authors and directors to think that race can be hidden under a layer of CGI, or racial denigration is fine as long as you don’t expressly state the race in question. It’s also worrisome because it perpetuates the idea of eugenics in popular media. White people are of the white race, the true human race; people of color are no more than animals, goblins, or aliens.
What people like Brad just don’t get is what white privilege really means. It’s the privilege to have ethnic pride without facing accusations of being a racial isolationist. It’s the ability to truly and wholy believe that your cultural background and physical appearance are universal norms. It’s pride and identity without question. That’s why media representation is so important to people of color, because it defines the standards of our society, the norms. I’m normal, and the color of my skin yearns for popular acceptance.
P.S. Gotta love sci-fi set in the future where China has taken over the world, but all the significant characters still manage to be white. Blade Runner and Serenity, I’m looking at you.
I’m white, I noticed after a couple of episodes, the realization just snuck up on me. Maybe no black actors turned up for the auditions or something. Maybe the directors/producers are so color blind that they didn’t even notice. Though as maybes go, these ones aren’t very convincing.
thats because the show plays in the future
Let us examine your basic premise from a slightly different angle.
What you have essentially implied is that people are displaying racial prejudice if they make stories about people who like them.
So all those Japanese science fiction movies where the future is full of Japanese people…
All of those kung-fu flicks from Hong Kong studios…
…you may want to think about this a while.
^ who *are* like them.
Grrrrrrr. Stupid typos.
vn thgh y mk gd pnt, y hv n crdblt cnsdrng yr qt t th tp rght. blck g ws wlkng thrgh m cmplx wrng (prdl) shrt tht sd “SHT P HNK”. M nghbr ws t wlkng hs dg (s ws th rcst blck g) nd ntcd hs shrt. Wht g nghbr (crrctl) skd rcst blck g “wld t b .k. fr m t wr shrt tht sd sht p nggr?” f crs rcst blck g sw n smlrt btwn th tw cncpts. Y r rcst – mch lk n thr wht sprmcsts t thr n th ntrnt. Y r prtctd *nw* jst s wht sprmcsts wr n th th cntr, bt tht wn’t lst frvr. pt y nd hp tht y stp mkng VLD rgmnts ndr fls prtnss. Y R rcst, m’m.
Generally the creator will put those who are more like them as the focal point of the work. Seeing as many races inevitably view the material, it is a bit short-sighted to not include a more diverse cast.
i agree completely with Devon.
i’d also like to point out that writing SciFi stories inherently requires imagining a unique and unfamiliar world… so it makes sense that SciFi writers might unthinkingly revert to what is most familiar to them (people of their own race and culture) when, after the effort of dreaming up a whole new world, they begin to populate that world with characters.
“Shut up Honkey” and “Shut Up N*****” are two different things. And though both aren’t necessarily the nicest things to say/wear they are coming from two different places of hate/anger and are not directly comparable. Saying their the same thing is not looking close enough at the issue. Like saying a cheetah is a lion because they’re both feline.
GEORDI LAFORGE! HELLOOOOOO!
He’s not even stereotypical. I guess you would say, though, that he acts white. Pray, how would you want black characters to act? I mean, it kind of seems like they have to be “true to their culture” while at the same time not being a “thug,” when a lot of black people subscribe to that precise culture.
Also, please don’t take that first line too seriously.
good lord, where did all these yahoos come from?
Jst bcs y mk sppstn ds nt mk t tr. ls, bth r cts – bth wll kll y. Gd pnt.
the angry black woman:
Y hv th gll t cll ppl hr crs? FY – Jst bcs y rd ScF ds nt mn tht y r hrbngr f lght m’m. Y r rc btr. B.
Hv nc d rcst trsh.
Annoyingmouse – if you know anything about television, you’ll understand why none of those maybes are particularly valid. For casting, the casting director gets his or her cues from the script or the director or the producer. Most casting calls are very specific. White, male, certain height, perhaps a body type. Or white, female, long hair, height, very fit. Etc. You get the idea. Therefore, black actors aren’t going to show up to a call that specifies white. If the casting call isn’t race-specific, the assumption is that they’re looking for white folks. CDs won’t cast black people (or other minorities) unless they’re specifically called for. Also, true colorblindness is rare. Like diamonds in horseshit, especially in the TV/Movie world.
roxxe – what’s because the show plays in the future? You’re not being real specific here, dear. Also, the show doesn’t PLAY in the future, it plays in the present.
Devon – I have actually thought about it for a while. You seem to be the person who is not thinking. Most of the movies released in America are made by Americans for an American audience. And, as far as I can tell from real life, America is not solely populated by white people. However, if you went by most TV and movies, the world is nothing but white folks, or only has a few black servants somewhere. If a movie studio in Japan wants to make a movie for a Japanese audience about Japan, then, yeah, I expect it to be populated by Japanese folks. Same goes for India. You cannot compare a society that is inherently made up o several different races and cultures to a society mainly made up of one culture and ethnicity. It’s not logical.
But to take a different look at it, compare American SciFi TV to British SciFi TV. I don’t know the % of non-white people in the UK as opposed to in America, but there are WAY more characters of color on UK TV percentage-wise. If the BBC can do this, why can’t American media?
Jon – hehehe you’re funny. Please check out the Required Reading link at top before you comment again. You’re in sore need of it. If you don’t understand the difference between Nigger and Honkey, then perhaps you need to take yourself out of polite society for a while.
Lea – that may be true, but that’s not a good excuse. Laziness is never a good excuse for anything. And that thinking is very, very lazy.
S.O.B. – I’m not understanding your point. Just because there’s one black character that you can remember my entire point is moot? Nope, sorry, darlin’, that won’t cut it. Also, I’m not the one who said Geordi doesn’t “act black”, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean, so I don’t understand why you’re asking ME how he’s supposed to act.
Oop, looks like Jon has earned a devoweling AND a banning! Good work :)
Until you (and other racists like you) realize that there is effectively no real DIFFERENCE between HONKEY and NIGGER, the pendulum will continue to swing back and forth and the ‘races’ (ha) will continue this retardation of intelligence.
Seriously. You think you’re educated for telling Jon that there’s no difference between those two terms? THERES NOT!
I seriously hope you are a H.S. dropout. It would be a sad day to think that you could have graduated college with this type of mindset.
hmm… James, you call me the high school dropout but in your comment you haven’t displayed the slightest hint of intelligence. If you’re not interested in civil dialogue, I suggest you piss off. :)
Lol at James.
If some of you people are over the age of 14 I’d be very disturbed. Because your critical thinking skill are certainly hovering around that of a fifth grader’s.
*plurals where necessary. Was attacked by a bee. :D
I just came back to reread this post (I couldn’t remember if this was the one where you got Ron Moore to agree with you), and I’ve got to add Tahmoh Penikett to the count.
(a little late, but…)
James! Would you like to buy a vowel? :D-b
Apparently pllogan can’t do basic math. 1 billion out of 6 billion is… 1/6th. Duh.
Anyways, great job kicking Brad’s ass, ABW!! I’m falling for your blog.
This has inspired my post for the final day of International Blogging Against Racism Week:
Great post. I was just having this discussion (read: rant) with someone about this fantasy show called “Fallen” where the basic plot is a Nephilim (offspring of a fallen angel and a human) is the “Savior” and will send all of the Fallen angels back to heaven. Who is this savior? A bumbling 20-something white male with the classic “mystical black man” who helps him along in his journey.
The show is interesting and yet I can’t get past the Savior being another white man. Why not a woman or a person of color?
I’ve attended some fascinating panels on race and people of color in the fantasy/sci-fi/SF genre (being a big geek myself) and you have hit the nail right on the head. People like Brad may tell you to “write your own stuff and get it produced on BET” but we both know what white, male privilege prevents. Too bad he doesn’t.
Reposted for awesomeness!
Can someone please tell me why so many people keep talking about BET as if black people actually owned it?
/*S.O.B. – I’m not understanding your point. Just because there’s one black character that you can remember my entire point is moot? Nope, sorry, darlin’, that won’t cut it.*/
No, I didn’t mean that. The first line was a joke, spoken from the point of view of an idiot. I agree that there is a lack of racial diversity in science fiction.
/*Also, I’m not the one who said Geordi doesn’t “act black”, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean, so I don’t understand why you’re asking ME how he’s supposed to act.*/
I thought I read somewhere in this page that you were disappointed that black people aren’t represented well enough culturally (not any characters in particular). Yet I also recall anger that they are portrayed as, okay, I must have misread. I mostly wanted clarification of your opinion on the portrayal of black characters.
First and foremost great post I agree with the thrust of the article completely. There is something that is interesting to me that no one has commented on and that is of course money. Now I happen to not only be bi-racial (although considered to be a black man)but an actor as well. So I’m well aware of the lack of acting gig’s not only from Sci-Fi but in most other genre’s except of course your standard hood drama.
The reality or should I say my opinion on it is profitability. In the sense of if it’s not broken don’t fix it. On a deeper issue than monetary the folks that own the media determine the media. So when people in their living rooms turn on their TV they are seeing what has been chosen for them to see. So from a business stand point I can tell you “there is no money in Black/Yellow/Brown programming since our numbers show that everyone loves (insert wildly popular show) why would we take a chance with something else?” Or as someone else posted earlier “why all the bean counting” just enjoy the programming look at the special effects!
The reality is that the studio exec’s don’t want to pay to see anyone or anything that does not represent them. This is a choice this does not happen by accident, there is so much money involved in this, every decision is made to have a deliberate outcome.
Now for the folks that live in America (I haven’t spent enough time over seas to comment on anything else) and are white, whether it’s realized or not are privileged. Yes some folks resent this fact some don’t acknowledge it’s existence but it’s there, and since their experience has been nothing but that it’s very difficult dare I say almost impossible to truly grasp the sense of being something other than the ruling class. Now I use that term for a reason because this issue goes far beyond TV or video games. If we take a hard look at our leadership we can see that we (people of color) are not faithfully represented in this “government”. So if we look at the big picture it may seem apparent as to why the Sci-Fi universe or any universe is all white, who controls the money?
“Whosoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce… And when you realize that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.” – James Garfield
I’d like to point out (just so it’s been said), that Battlestar Galactica is filmed in British Columbia. For a breakdown of race in Vancouver, I can direct you to this wikipedia graph:
Many television programs that are being aired in the US are being filmed in Canada because it’s cheaper. So what?
Thanks for posting that graph. So judging by that graph, no show that’s filmed in Vancouver should have any trouble finding actors of color to fill roles. Good to know, esp. since I’ve too often heard people say, “Hey, the show’s filmed in Canada! There are no people of color in Canada! So that’s why it’s so white!”
Yeah, I was wondering that myself. BET is neither black (owned) nor entertaining, and while we’re at it I’d hesitate to call it television…
You need to get over yourself.
At least BSG has a few token people of color. Name me any gay person in any sci fi show?
Bottom line is, the vast majority of people in our culture are white, and the vast majority of them are straight. I therefore take it as no personal offense when popular culture is heterocentric or whitecentric.
It’s sad when people won’t stand behind their words with a name. Even a fake name will do.
“Name me any gay person in any sci fi show?”
Captain Jack Harkness, Toshiko Sato, Admiral Cain, Jadzia Dax, Xena, Gabrielle, Miranda Calender (and her assistant). If I actually did research instead of going off the top of my head, I could come up with more.
“Bottom line is, the vast majority of people in our culture are white,”
No, the bottom line actually is that the vast majority of television shows take place in cities on the East or West Coasts, and the percentage of non-white people in those cities is larger than the percentage of non-white people in America in general. Therefore, the shows should be representative of that and they aren’t.
The bottom line actually is that science fiction programming takes place mostly in the future, and if you look around right now white people are in the minority globally, and most of these shows have a global premise. So why can’t their casting reflect that? You can’t convince me that earth of the future is only sparsely populated by white folks unless a genocide happened. That’s not in the backstory.
The bottom line actually is that the practice of excluding minorities except in tokened and sometimes racist roles is absolutely, completely immoral and wrong. And if you don’t understand that, there’s something wrong with *you*.
“I therefore take it as no personal offense…”
It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t take offense at. You’re not the one the offense is perpetrated on.
I’m not a gay man. So if I’m walking down the street and I hear someone scream FAGGOT, I’m less likely to be personally hurt by it. That person isn’t talking to me, isn’t insulting me, isn’t even thinking about me. But, judging from your comment, you may well be a gay man. And it may well anger, hurt, or embarrass you to have someone scream FAGGOT. Do I get to tell you to get over it?
That’s the most bass-ackwards crap I’ve ever heard. You complain that gay people aren’t getting representation, so black people should shut up. But you’re perfectly fine with the fact that gay people aren’t getting representation… so black people should shut up?
This pretty much explains in a nutshell why black people *shouldn’t* shut up, and why us being yappy helps gay people too… and why people like *you* should shut up, if you’re going to rationalize your bigotry that badly. Good grief, at least *try* to sound rational.
also, what Nora said.
Howdy. Just happened to follow a link to your site. Goodness, it’s refreshing to read a blog commenting on this stuff! I don’t watch a lot of sci-fi/fantasy, but I do read and write it, and I watch crime dramas on TV. You are absolutely right and the fact that many people react so defensively shows how deeply embedded racism is in our society.
There’s only one small point of your argument I disagree with: “White, heterosexual men have the luxury of being able to turn to 99% of the channels beamed into their TVs and see themselves portrayed in a manner that makes them comfortable and happy. Most white women, do, too.”
I am a half-White/half-Korean woman and in general, television portrayal of women does not make me comfortable and happy. Which isn’t to say things are as bad for white women as for people of color — they’re not! At least women are in these shows. Sometimes they even get strong leading roles, though only if they are white of course. However, in most shows that aren’t geared specifically to women (meaning the genres I watch: action, crime, mystery, medical dramas, etc), the women who are in the show mostly just look pretty. They’re not as developed, strong, or interesting as the male leads. There are exceptions and television is getting better about it, but by and large it’s still very male-centric.
I have to look very hard to find shows with good female leads. Stuff like Prime Suspect, The Closer, maybe FX’s Damages (haven’t seen it yet). So I would say that for 99 percent of white males, yeah things look good. But for white females you have to really search for stuff that’s decent, once you go outside of traditionally women’s genres.
The difference in magnitude of the problem is that if I look hard enough, it’s there. I can usually find something. Whereas I have yet to find a single crime/mystery series that has a Black, Latino, or Asian lead character — let alone a woman of that color. It’s a huge problem. Anyone who thinks otherwise is… well, probably a white male.
Keep fighting the good fight. And keep putting your voice out there! Sci-fi/fantasy writers and aspiring writers (like me) need to hear it.
Hi. I have been a lurker on your blog for some time, but I have never posted a reply to anything. Today that changes.
I agree with your assessment that Minorities are under-represented in Sci-Fi. However, I am not certain that there is any malicious intent behind this unfortunate truth.
I have had the good fortune to spend over 30 years in the advertising world. While it is not television or movie production, it is very similar. Casting calls for actors and actresses are done basically the same way for commercials as they are for TV or movies. The one thing that I can honestly say is that while most of the projects that I have worked on over the years have failed to be reflective of American demographics (most were skewed disproportionately white), I have rarely felt that this result was due to a malicious racist plot. Rather, it was actually more the result of happenstance.
While this point of view may be anathema for many who prefer to see conspiracy behind every corner, it is nevertheless what I have observed. White people don’t intend to exclude minorities. They simply don’t think about us. The idea that their work is exclusionary often doesn’t even occur to them.
This blog probably rarely speaks on or advocates the rights of the Shia majority in Iraq. Despite their majority status, the Shia have not held power for more than 1,300 years. Are you anti-Shia because you never mention them in any of your writings? No, of course you aren’t. Rather, you suffer from the same ailment as so many in our society (and the societies of countries around the world); cultural myopia. Most people view the world through the filter of their own attitudes, beliefs, values, and experience. It is a normal and natural human behavior. I have travelled the world quite extensively, and have observed the same thing in country after country.
The early Greek philosopher Xenophanes said, “Yes, and if oxen and horses or lions had hands, and could paint with their hands, and produce works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of the gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the image of their several kinds”.
I would be willing to wager that those who make the shows on Sci-Fi Channel didn’t even realize the omission until it was pointed out to them (if it has been pointed out to them). In their culturally myopic world, things truly ARE predominantly white male.
Once again, I am not justifying the omission. I am just saying that it is probably not intentional or something that was CONSCIOUSLY done.
IMO, more minorities need to become producers of the programming that we consume , be it on TV, moves, print, or the internet (even in the form of blogs like your own). That is the only way that all aspects of society will ever truly be represented in a fair and unbiased fashion.
But of course I could be completely wrong. As Harry Dresden once said on The Dresden Files, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face”.
Until the day when you produce your own sci-fi show that boast a cast filled with minorities, perhaps we can take solace in the fact that in the future world of The Matrix, Blacks seem to be the predominant survivors (although the Savior is, of course, a white male).
I for one never really believed that casting directers don’t make conscious decisions about ignoring people of color but I get concerned about some negative/hostile attitudes of some when any POC questions/comments on the fact or shows some wish to see others like them.
Some make others feel guilty of asking for others to represent them by trivializing it, then use the same excuse to continue use majority characters (‘don’t want to alienate the audience’).
I would very much like to see black owned media markets that will more naturally think of us, but with the way this monopolizing businessworld works it certainly won’t happen overnight. Until then I would like to feel as if I’m not just some thorn in the majority media’s side for mistaking myself as a part of America’s audiences.
Therein lies your mistake. You said that you “would like to feel as though I’m not just some thorn in the majority media’s side….”. IMO, you need to embrace the fact that you are a thorn. I honestly believe that the only color that most of Hollywood sees is green. They respond to things that are going to affect their bottom line. Since their products (movies, tv shows, etc.) are doing quite well, they have no need to change anything. It is only when those like yourself make a pain of yourself by writing to them and complaining (i.e. becoming “thorns”) that they are given an impetus for making change. You know the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. We must be sure to loudly and clearly let them know that it is broke. That may mean being a thorn in their sides, but if we don’t do it, who will?
BTW ABW, I apologize if my views aren’t angry enough. As I mentioned in my first post, I am new here and I enjoy the discussions that you foster. However, my opinions tend to be a bit “middle of the road”. I hope that is okay, and that my non-angry points of view are welcome here.
Ha, good point, Dead Man.
Umm…I wonder. Go to your nearest Barnes&Noble, head to the Science Fiction section, and check out the authors. My guess is 90% white men.
Earth to ABW, there is still rampant slavery in Africa. Black Africans are being slaughtered by the Janjaweed in Darfur, and you are bitching about how many black faces you see on a show written, produced, paid for and most likely watched by a vast majority of whities….
If you want to ramble about privilege…take a look in the mirror.
Oh goodie! White people lecturing me about Africa! All of my dreams have finally come true…
Ahem. First, I freely acknowledge my privileges and the blindnesses they cause by default. I may not have white or male privilege, but I do have class, heterosexual, and American privilege. Fortunately, since I’m aware of my privileges, I do what I can to combat ignorance and laziness of mind due to having them and try to be a good ally to those without them.
Your mention of Africa is a good example — I don’t often blog about Africa because I have never been there, don’t have any close friends who are from any of the countries on that continent or know a great deal about them, and I have to do way more to educate myself about the issues of Africa before I can begin to address them properly. Nothing more annoying than an ignorant outsider crashing in to comment and criticize. I know because I experience that every day on this blog.
However, if you’d read ANY other post besides this one and maybe skimmed the front page a bit, you’d notice that lately I’d put out feelers for getting a guest blogger from Africa for the very purpose of talking about the issues they encounter. I am American and my natural focus is on America because I know it. When I want to learn about Africa, I go to an African.
Your snide remarks show that, not only are you NOT a person who is interested in engaging in helpful dialogue about race, but you’re an active suppressor of discussions about race. the oldest tactic in the book is “Why are you paying attention to X when Y is much worse?” Brother, it’s ALL bad. And solving the problem of race relations isn’t a top-down effort. You attack and criticize and do a deep analysis of things on all fronts, from media to current events to history to interpersonal relationships. Why am I bitching about a TV show when bad things are happening elsewhere? because bad things are happening here, son. And I need to call them out.
The bad thing happening in America is lazy ass people sitting on their couches watching too much TV. A study just came out about obesity in America and guess what, African-Americans are leading the pack.
If you really cared about your “community” (or is it simply your own ego that needs assuaging?) you’d be well advised to set an example and drastically cut down on the boob tube, both watching it and commenting on it.
And frankly I find it bizarre when black Americans toss around the word white. Are you talking about Amish, cowboys, Alaskan fishermen, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, Italians, WASP golfers, trailer park truckers, Kentucky coalminers, hippies…???
One thing I think is lost upon most African-Americans is that white people do not see themselves as a group. It is simply blacks projecting their own ingroup attitude on whites.
*falls over laughing at the patheticness*
yet more derailing! “Let’s nopt discuss the actual issues you raise but instead go off on a tangent about obesity and, really, you shouldn’t be watching TV.” *snicker* You’re so funny!
And also with the completely unrelated topic of whites as a group. let’s not talk about what this post is about, let’s talk about… white people!!
Seriously, before you comment again click on the link at the top of the page called “Required Reading” and check out the link for “How to Suppress Discussions of Racism”. After you’ve schooled yourself a little you’re allowed to come challenge me on my views. Cuz right now you’re just being silly and I giggle.
Cuz seriously, you’re just handwaving. You don’t want to confront me on the merits of my argument, possibly because you know you can’t. So instead you’re trying to deflect. This may work on whatever black people are unfortunate enough to know you in real life, but it won’t work on me.
So, go on and educate yourself and then return. If you think educating yourself is too much trouble, then go away. *shrug* either one suits me fine.
I am discussing the actual issue raised which is an obsession with TV. It’s unhealthy, trivial, pointless, and counterproductive.
Soon we will have Hispanics kvetching about how there are too many blacks on TV, and then Asians, and then mixed race people blah blah blah.
And growing up in Chicago where I had to endure Jesse Jackson, Dorothy Tillman and Louis Farrakhan expound nightly on TV (oh, and now Al Sharpton is coming to town…woo hoo) I frankly have heard more than enough about affirmative action and not nearly enough about family values.
Question ABW? If black faces were the majority of faces in science fiction shows, how exactly would that affect the illegitimacy and murder/violence rates in the African-American community???
And so far, you have called me ignorant, accused me of trying to suppress discussion of race, suggested I need to “school myself”, then called me silly and talked about black people “unfortunate enought to know [me]”
Wow, classy lady.
Maybe you are the one trying to suppress discussion of race by focusing on the most trivial of all issues????
“I am discussing the actual issue raised which is an obsession with TV. It’s unhealthy, trivial, pointless, and counterproductive.”
No, dude, the actual issue raised HERE is that there are very few characters of color on television and, of the ones that are there, most of them are negative stereotypes. This discussion is not dictated by YOU because this isn’t your blog. And though I like to give my commenters free reign to bring up tangental subjects I will NOT allow you to come in here and make this discussion about you, derail the topic, and generally turn it away from the point. If you want to discuss the evils of television and its effects on the African-American community, do it on your own blog.
“Soon we will have Hispanics kvetching about how there are too many blacks on TV, and then Asians, and then mixed race people blah blah blah.”
OMG you think? That would be awesome! And then one day people will look around and notice that there are so many of all kinds of people on TV that they can finally watch it without cringing!
Also, you’ve just involved jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that anytime a white person does this it’s like a subset of Godwin’s Law, wherein whenever someone accuses someone else of being “like Hitler” the conversation is pretty much over. Anytime white people start throwing Jackson and Sharpton around like they’re curse words that tells me they can’t have a rational conversation about race. You, son, have crossed over. Can’t help you.
“Question ABW? If black faces were the majority of faces in science fiction shows, how exactly would that affect the illegitimacy and murder/violence rates in the African-American community???”
That question nearly made my mind turn inside out because it’s beginning has almost nothing to do with it’s conclusion. I don’t know if that’s a straw man or a logical fallacy or just plain craziness.
I wonder how classiness comes into my exhortation for you to educate yourself. do people with class never suggest that others not be dumb?
“Maybe you are the one trying to suppress discussion of race by focusing on the most trivial of all issues????”
As I suspected, you’ve not read any of the rest of this website. All right, then! I’m done.
I brought up Jesse et al because I actually am from Chicago and I see a direct parllel between your whining about not enough black faces on TV as more of the same tired old affirmative action bs.
And if on the next season of American Idol, the five finalists are all black women (voted in by those racist white people) I pray not one single white person would complain. I would just sit back and enjoy the show.
And one final question, not that I am expecting an answer ABW, seeing as 1/3 of Americans are obese, shouldn’t there be more fat people on TV, and don;t even get me started on the lack of ugly people in the media.
It’s a national disgrace…..
^^^ARRRGH!! The bullshit makes my eyes bleed!
Also, you’ve just involved jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that anytime a white person does this it’s like a subset of Godwin’s Law, wherein whenever someone accuses someone else of being “like Hitler” the conversation is pretty much over.
ABW, you just made me snort water out of my nose. Hee. Right on.
OverItAllWhiteGuy, why are you here if you’re so over it all?
Again, this post isn’t about any of the issues you brought up, and as you’re calling AA bullshit, it invalidates just about everything you have to say.
But I will note that I have always maintained that there should be more people of different body types and different standards of beauty on TV. No, let me correct that, More WOMEN of different body types and beauty standards. It’s not hard to find ugly and/or fat men on television. But again, that’s a topic for a different post.
Er… Overitallwhiteguy… what does slavery in Africa have to do with issues of race on American television? Seems a bit of a stretch. I’m seeing it like this:
ABW: Black people get crap roles on TV. It sux.
Overitallwhiteguy: Earth to ABW, there is still rampant slavery in Africa.
ABW: Er… Latinas also get crap roles on TV. So not fair.
Overitallwhiteguy: Earth to ABW, there is still rampant poverty in Mexico.
ABW: Ugh… Okay… I’m going to the doctor. Feeling nauseous from all the bs.
Overitallwhiteguy: Earth to ABW! PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE DYING FROM AIDS! IN COMPARISON TO THEM YOUR NAUSEA IS MAGNIFICENT! If you want to ramble about privilege…take a look in the mirror.
“And one final question, not that I am expecting an answer ABW, seeing as 1/3 of Americans are obese, shouldn’t there be more fat people on TV, and don;t even get me started on the lack of ugly people in the media.
It’s a national disgrace…..”
If the overrepresentation of pretty people is a national disgrace, why not the overrepresentation of white people? I mean, of course having only pretty faces skews our thinking. We begin to place value in the superficial qualities we see enshrined on television. Fatness seems bad. TV doesn’t reflect reality (in which many people are fat).
… but don’t you think that this is the case for race as well? And the enshrinement not only of beauty and thinness, but *white* beauty and thinness, might not be so good to those who aren’t, well, white?
This comment says a lot “As for your accusation that I’m ’stuck on race,’ I will have to say Yes, I Am. Can’t help it. You have the privilege to ignore race when you want to, even in your own home. As a person living in brown skin, I cannot. But thank you for making me feel better about that.”
I used to think it was curious, as a kid, to know there were only about four black kids in my class; to watch television, and see one or two shows that focused on black families.
White people do have the priviledge of not thinking about race. We don’t have to worry about whether the white employer might be racist, or worry about how naming our children “Jennifer” or “Daniel” might effect them on an online job application.
We simply don’t have to deal with it. Most of our families; our communities; our schools; our medial–it’s white dominated. Even high school and college classes focusing on “African American History,” seem to evade some deeper dynamics of history and current problems. And they too, seem to be most often “suggested courses” for black students more so then white students.
In history, we were taught that the “founding fathers” of our country; European pilgrims; and wealthy white bankers built this country. We may learn who invented peanut butter or about who sat in the front of a bus, but we aren’t taught the complexity of economy and of society in a way that most poingantly focuses on diversity; and the irony and irreparable damage of how it’s come to be.
It’s sad that there are so few courses of enlightenment toward understanding it for white people, when it seems to be one of the biggest definining attribute of our country.
Hi ABW, :)
I just wanted to point out that one of the main characters on BattlesStar Galactica is a black woman (“Dee” Anastasia Dualla) and she plays Apollo’s (Admiral Adama’s son) wife and she is smokin! I think it’s wonderful to see an interracial relationship on such a high profile show.
Watched BET for while, they make no pretense of including whites in programming. So I turned the channel, no big deal. I really don’t see the issue. Writers of these programs are under no obligation to include a certain race or gender (although it would be smart business practice to appeal to a wide audience). They create a product, and like any product on the shelf at a supermarket, we are free to buy it, or spend our money on something else that is more to our liking. Good observations on these TV shows, but we all individually have control over the remote control.
And not to plop myself into the middle of that arguement, but I think a few people were trying way too hard to NOT understand what ALLOVERIT was trying to say. He was simply making comment on the relevance of discussing the racial make up of TV shows, when there is obviously more critical issues that seem to demand our attention and blog space. How did you not get that? Howver you are correct, this is your blog and I enjoy reading it and being a part of it. But I do think there is so much much groupthink and herd mentality when it comes to race, a little balance and dissent is refreshing.
Trivializing an issue by claiming there are more important things to worry about is one of the classic methods of dismissing it — *without* addressing the problem in a way that is meaningful or productive. It is a method of dismissal that has been used against every type of activist — feminists, animal rights activists, workers rights advocates, etc. Yes there are big problems in the world. But you know what? Saying that doesn’t negate the little problems. And it doesn’t help anyone (except those who don’t want to address the issue). What helps is directly addressing the issues when they are brought up.
Michael, you say, “So I turned the channel, no big deal.” That’s very nice for you. You can find what you want by changing the channel. I can’t. If I want a television show with a strong, tough, interesting female lead, I have to search online and order it on DVD. If I want a crime drama with an African American female lead, I may never find it (I can’t think of one off the top of my head — and I watch a lot of crime/mystery shows).
If I am an aspiring actress hoping to get the part of a strong, interesting, well-developed character in mainstream TV and I am a person of color? … tough luck.
To me, that seems very unfair. And then what sort of image of themselves do you think children get when they only see a certain type of person (white men) making great accomplishments in their favorite shows? When they only see themselves as thugs or busty damsels or side characters, or not at all? I can tell you from personal experience that the image is not a positive one. There are all kinds of reasons why having only white people in shows is problematic.
I think the issue is important. I think it is important because I know the impact it has had on my psyche, growing up. I have seen the impact it has had on my sisters’ psyches. It has not been a good impact. I suspect you have not felt this same impact. Who are you to tell me, then, that it’s not a problem?
Guess I’m not wanted here! lol
what do you say that, D3?
Michael said “Watched BET for while, they make no pretense of including whites in programming. So I turned the channel, no big deal. ”
Umm. Yeah. Well.
a) BET sucks — and, at the top of the food chain, is not “made” by Black people (any more than most “Black” radio is).
b) When you “turned the channel, no big deal”, did it occur to you that THE OTHER 149 CHANNELS WERE MOSTLY FOCUSED ON WHITE PEOPLE?? Oh, except Univision I guess. And the Korean soap operas. Shit, if I want to see positive/reasonably informed protrayals of/discusion relevant to Muslims, I have to go to a friends house and watch satellite TV from the Middle East! And half of those channels you can’t even get in the US any more because ignorant Americans who don’t even speak Arabic have declared them “Terrorist TV”.
It’s “no big deal” to turn the channel when it involves turning from the one tiny slice of the mediasphere that doesn’t target your demographic to the 99.9% that does. The rest of us don’t have it so easy, dude.
Good comments all and excellent points. However, I am indeed dismissive of it because I deeply understand that the way fix it is not to beat people over the head until they do something to your liking as opposed to seeing it as an opportunity to step up and solve it. I live in Houston where we have 14 english radio stations (7 “white” as you would call it and 6 primarily AA), 12 hispanic, 4 asian, and even several that are “Farsi”. SO indeed somebody gets what I’m saying. If there is a absence of programming that suits you, fill the void. Listen, I not saying its smart business to not be inclusive, so please don’t understand me. I just see this as an opportunity. And being the evil capitalist :-) that I am, would see this as a great untapped market. So are you telling me that BET is white owned, or is it corporately owned and that is code or typically synonomous with “white”, as i am sure there is not one single, solitary AA in that company :-). All points well taken, but I still see the issue as more simplistic; companies make products for who they wish, and TV and radio are no different. We are free to patronize them or not, as we are free to create companies and products that compete and fill that need. Again, don’t misunderstand me, I not saying its fine and you should just deal with it. But we should never want our government or anyone else mandating what public companies produce, sell, or say. As stupid as it is for them to ignore a key market group, they do have do have the right to be that stupid.
Ok, had to look it up, BET is owned by Viacom. Is this an evil white organization or a public company owned by its shareholders……I’ll have the employee diversity breakdowns shortly from the Dept of Labor so we can see how just how evil it is since Saladin considers it irrelevant due to its not being privately owned by a AA.
we are free to create companies and products that compete and fill that need.
Michael, it’s a pretty strange definition of “free” that only encompasses the tiny percentage of people on the planet with the kind of capital it takes to start a TV network. I’m “free” to buy a million-dollar yacht, too, on paper. Freedoms don’t mean a whole lot when they’re only accessible to the elite few.
But I think the point of “BET sucks” is that it runs unintelligent, exploitative programming that insults its audience, not a function of who the owners are. Of course it’s run by a corporation, all networks are, which is why TV exists to sell products, not for its potential as an artistic and informational medium.
realpotato, that is precisely the defintition of free. Access to captial is another discussion and indeed is a difficult process. Most companies are grown, not simply plopped down by an elite few, I live this every day. Access to capital will always be difficult and is intended to be a gate to starting a business. Potato, this is where you need to stay on point and understand where we differentiate “free” and “fundamental ffreedoms” that allow people to persue whatever they want. Of course not everyone has a million dollars, of course you are “free” to want or buy anything you want, but you are not entitled to simply be given money to give the illusion that you are somehow equal to people that have struggled, planned, and given much of themselves to start a business. However you do have the “freedom” to create a business plan, develop a market, go for funding like every other public company and become one of those often hated and criticized companies :-). Not all of the “elite few” were simple placed there by some white divine intervention. Next point: uh potato, you missed his point, he said it sucked precisely BECAUSE it is not sensitive to AA community as a function of its ownership (code for the leadership being white). Of course TV exists to sell products through its medium. However, its ability to sell iproducts through its shows is still baseline market demand. Again, not to be too insensitive to the issue, but I wouldn’t (nor would you if you were interested in making money) create a product that was only in demand by a small # of potential customers. I say this again and again, don’t misunderstand me, but I do not believe this to be some grand plan to purposely show AAs in a negative or stereotpyical manner. As demographics change, so shouldl programming ito keep pace if they hope to stay in business, but that is their decision, to be stupid, or to be ahead of the curve. I see people every day shoving biz plans in my face with great ideas….but I’ve never seen one, not one, for a startup, nor the purchase and conversion of an existing one focused on AA-centered entertainment. Ok…..am I the only one seeing the huge, hairy, screaming, opportunity in the blog? Love the conversation, thank all for the tolerance of dissent, its helps us all….peace
Remember when white people use to say that aliens built the Egyptian pyramids, because they themselves could not figure out how the pyramids were built?
Then, when they got a probe with a small camera on the tip to fit into an opening of one of the tombs, they found there were pictures of black figures painted on the inside walls. These black figures were people…Black People! People on the walls were of different shades of brown and black. Which meant, if aliens built the pyramids, then those aliens were people of color!
And, if Aliens were Black people who can traverse throughout the universe, then they are more intelligent than the white people who cannot figure out how the pyramids were built. Hence, the need for propaganda on their part.
The propaganda in the Battlestar Galactica series is the same as the invention of Superman, when the Brown Bomber was blasting white boys in the boxing ring.
Stephen Marley articulates it prominently in his song ‘Mind Control’.
Arrghh, now that what I call really working to hard to make some kind of point….but well Ok I guess, let me get my tin foil hat…:-)
Michael, I never suggested that the government mandate what privately owned companies market and sell. My argument is simply that this *is* a supremely important issue here in America, because what we see on television and in movies shapes our perceptions of the world — often in very negative ways where race and gender are concerned. As I have mentioned, I’ve seen its effects on my family, on my students, and on me. Something needs to be done.
What did ABW do? Rant about it. Blog about it. Make the issue public and throw it out into the world. That’s *exactly* what needs to happen. We need to complain, to kick and scream, to raise consciousness about this to both consumers and companies. Some people try to shout us down, saying “this isn’t an important issue” or “you’re seeing racism where there is none.” We will not be shouted down, because it *is* an important issue and the racism is invisible to those who don’t experience it.
As for the free market — I think we can see from things like pollution, the spread of deadly pesticides and cancerous materials, shady drug testing/development performed on impoverished populations in Africa, etc., that the free market is not concerned with human welfare. The only way to make it concerned is to raise a public outcry about it.
To reiterate: this is an important issue and it needs to be voiced, LOUDLY and FREQUENTLY, or things will never change.
Michael, how do you suggest we black folk “step up”, as you put it, to get the things we want on television? Do you not understand how getting things on television work? Do you not get that most of the channels on your TV are controlled by companies that don’t employ anything but the bare minimum of minorities, the majority of whom are not in the top echelon and therefore able to force inclusiveness? Do you understand that television and movie media people actively work to make sure that a white person (preferably male) is at the lead of every show that isn’t specifically about minorities and even some that are? Ask BetaCandy sometime about her experience as a screenwriter. Ask Reginald Hudlin sometime about his struggle to create programming that isn’t relegated to the ghetto of the TV only black people watch. Ask the author of “I Left My Heart at Wounded Knee” about how it felt for producers of the movie to insist that they needed a “white perspective” to carry audiences through a story that was, indeed, not about white people AT ALL.
Do you understand that it’s not as simple as “If you write it, they will watch”? Because even if you write it, it may not be produced. Even if it gets produced, you may not have control. Even if you have control, it may not been seen by a mainstream audience. Even if it’s seen by a mainstream audience, how much of that audience will write it off as “some black stuff” and not watch it, thereby causing a drop in key demographics, thereby losing advertisers, thereby being canceled, even if it has high ratings?
Of course stuff like this happens to white-generated media, too. (ask Joss Whedon). But the fact is that it happens far, FAR more often to black visual media than white visual media.
ICO, absolutely ABW brings it to the attention of people. That’s one of the reason I love this blog. I’m suggesting that there is are alternatives to simply forcing old-school businesses to change thier ways. Most will not change until competition forces them to change. Lets face it, nobody wants government to mandate the change and thereby loose even more of our freedoms. But ICO, free market is not evil, what is going on in Africa is not symtomatic of a free market, it is a function of corrupt government and an uneducated, population kept poor by that government (not to mention warlords). Yes the free market is imperfect, yes if has its tragedies. But my point is simply this; rasing consciencous is important, ranting and blogging is all key as well, but at the end of the day, action is better. Last night I was getting a book for a long flight I’m taking, and I also saw a Black Enterprise Magazine, and as a result of this discussion, read a little of it…WOW…what a great message! Its about exactly what i am saying; translating the “consciencenous, and ranting” into business success. And the example of the BE Business Person of the year is cool! So that’s all I am saying, I am biased towards action, starting a biz that competes and embarasses companies that don’t see the opportunity that we see. Difficult? Yes!, Impossible” Hell no! So I understand completely the frustration 100%, I just have different ideas of a different solution. Banging my head against a wall in hopes that it creates a door is a waste of my time, I’d rather make my point by kicking thier ass where it counts…balance sheet and market share. And ABW, i understand its hard functioning in the “old-guard” companies…..even for whites. Beleive it or not, we still sometimes have to kiss the right ass to get somewhere, and beleive me, we don’t always feel like puckering up! Love the discussion!! You guys rock!
I think you need to look more closely at what ABW just said. You want to “kick their ass where it counts.” She just explained quite clearly why kicking their ass has not already happened. Don’t you think people are trying? Have been trying for decades?
Of course action is important. I fully agree with you there; what I don’t agree with is your comment that “banging my head against a wall in hopes it creates a door is a waste of my time.” This head-banging — ranting, speaking out — is an action, and one of the most potent ones we can take and a necessary step in any movement. Name one social movement that didn’t involve dissemination of information — songs, pamphlets, speeches, writings, often angry ones that fire other people up. If people are uninformed or unaware, how can they change? I think most people commenting on this blog do both. Speak out here, and in their daily lives act. As much as we possibly can, until the world changes.
As far as Africa is concerned… It’s not relevant to the subject at hand, but before sparing the free market and the corporations of blame you ought to read “The Body Hunters” by Sonia Shah. It’s quite shocking and will open your eyes to some very horrific realities of one of the largest and most powerful industries in the world: pharmaceuticals. And how, like so many giant industries powered largely by white people, they royally screw black people. In maddeningly atrocious ways.
Ico, Please, explain that logic to me: Nice sentiments….songs, phamplets and ranting…how sweet, certainly thats your choice and I respect that. But..its all focused at wanting “evil white corporations” to provide more product for you, when you outwardly detest them (even though many are owned and/or managed by AAs, go pick up that Black Enterprise mag as a start) Thats no motivation for a company to do anything and it certainly is only a surface level fix when they do. It changes absolutely nothing in their personal core beliefts, which, in my opinion, is the only path to lasting change. I’ll read “The Bounty Hunters”, when you take the time to read “Capitalism and Freedom”, by Thomas Friedman and begin to understand what I am talking about when it comes to real freedom, economic “Freedom” for any race of people, it ALL starts there. You can call ranting, phamplets, speaking out, etc, “action” if you desire. Its certainly better than doing nothing, but not much more. Economic freedom will give you that, it will take more work, and it certainly isn’t as easy as sitting in front of a computer, or creating phamplets. You will NEVER gain economic freedom by simply forcing companies (apparently all owned by evil white men even though we know that a public company is owned by its shareholders that make up a wide variety of races, after all, everyon loves investing). “The Bounty Hunters” is in no way an accurate portrait of all corporations….and Pharmasueticals (a industry that primarily supports the democrats by the way) is not indicative of all corporations’ dealings with people. Ico, new flash: it may be hard for you to beleive, but we white people do not sit up nights looking for ways to screw African Americans. Clearly there are some, and there are blacks that openly call for the murder of white people, but those are fringe loonies. Read the book, and then lets talk. You will grow old and tired with that head beating, but i certainly will respect your right to keep beating it. Peace and thanks…..good discussion!
And lets not generalize on ‘so many giant industries powered by white people screwing black people”. AAs have fought long and hard to ensure people do not generalize or stereotype blacks, so now is as good of time as any to start practicing what you preach. All whites are not out to screw blacks, neither in corporate america, nor in personal life. Period
How carefully did you read my remarks, Michael? I said words *and* action. Not one without the other. Martin Luther King Jr. led people in peaceful actions, but he also communicated his message frequently in speeches, in letters, etc. Every social movement — the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, etc — used communication to gets its message across while simultaneously taking action. Not one without the other. How difficult is that to understand? Blogs like this — they form the education and outreach, the communication and awareness-raising part of things. Have you ever participated in an activist group? Amnesty International? An LGBT group? If you do, I think you’ll find a big part of social movements is dissemination of information. Raising consciousness. And action too, yes. BOTH. I said both. If you will read my post.
And when did I ever say white people sit up nights looking for ways to screw African Americans? Uh… just to let you know… my family is culturally *white*. My mother is half-Korean and was adopted into a white family as a child; I have no relatives in a minority group and no cultural heritage to speak of. I was raised in a white neighborhood, a white school, and one of the most segregated cities in Florida. I speak from a white identity. Get it? But racism pisses me off. Immensely. Just like sexism.
I don’t think white people look purposefully for ways to screw over people of color, in general. But it *happens,* for all kinds of reasons connected to economics, privilege, and power. Historically, white power structures *have* royally screwed over black people, as well as native americans and other ethnic minorites. That is a fact.
Now, as far as the free market goes, how about actually addressing the points ABW brought up? And kindly don’t bend my words again.
ICO, we’ll agree to differ on our methods, approaches and interpretations. I have seen very few positive outcomes of marches, endless rhetoric, and pot bashing. And I have personally seen MLK speak, at a rally having lived in Memphis for years before moving to Houston. (In fact I was out having dinner with my brother when we got the news he had been shot). I know what positive action looks like so perhaps I’m jaded. I see nothing even remotely positive or MLK-like from the past recent years of movements. I’ve seen whites, pulled from cars and beat within an inch of thier life, I’ve seen minorities trashing and burning their OWN neighborhoods, I’ve seen the street of Houston clogged with people demonstrating while burining the flag of the nation they want to be a part of…….all on TV, and all in front of God and everyone, with no recourse! This does nothing but reinforce stereotypes and forge a stronger resistance. I agree with you MLK-type movements are inspiring and amazing, but those have long since disappeared and have been replaced by the rhetorical beating of people over the head. Meanwhile, there is a group of people quietly making real changes in the power structure. Ico, I respect your views and certainly not wanting to bend words, but these are all relevant. An jsut for clarification, you invoked Africa, I simply pointed out the root cause of the issues in that country. Love the discussion and debate! Peace!
This is an interesting debate to watch here it seems as thought Michael has taken the position that as long as we (minorities) work hard we should be able to acheive whatever we desire. Which is a fair assumption if the playing fields were level however, I think we both can agree they are not.
Also interesting in your comments about white folks being pulled out of their cars and beaten to an inch of their lives or minorities burning their “OWN” neighborhoods. First and foremost ask yourself why would you see that on TV and nothing about the countless times minorities are beaten and killed even by the POLICE? Who is supposedly hired to protect and serve everyone.
For you to even say that and I quote “people demonstrating while burining[SIC] the flag of the nation they want to be a part of” illustrates to me that perhaps you don’t consider minorities a part of this nation to begin with. As when white folks burn the American flag they are exercising their rights in front of God and everyone without there ever being a recourse! Thats part of the issue in of itself stating that “we” want to be a part of this nation is insulting. “We” are a part of this nation our fathers and mothers bled the ground red to build this country without receiving a dime. I was born here, I’m an American citizen just like everyone else born here. If we aren’t a part of this nation I shudder to think what would be needed to pass the entrance exam!
I digress, really how I see it and it’s just my opinion is that it’s easy to say in the free market all things are possible with just a little bit of elbow grease “a dollar and a dream”. However, in business ,as I’m guessing you’re involved with, it’s not just about how hard you work it’s about what school did you go to, what school did your parents go to, who you know thats connected, how much you gave to your political party. The reality is that minorities are tired of not being allowed to participate in this very system you’re saying we need to participate in!
Whats even more frustrating is when someone says to affect change requires wealth. Did you know Michael that my father was not allowed to buy real estate in this country 50 years ago and his father and his father too? Did you know that real estate is one of the major trillion (with a T) dollar markets in the world? Did you know that he was not allowed to have his own business? Did you know that when my ancestors were freed they made up the majority of skilled labor in south and yet today own a neglible amount of anything in the south or America for that matter? Do you think that the wealth and power that was garnered during this time in the past is not felt or used today? I would love to tell my son that college is all taken care of because your great grandfather invested in this home on the beach in California but, my great grandfather was not allowed to participate. Just as we are not being allowed to participate now. That wealth that was stolen off of the backs of slaves has passed down from generation to generation and yet for some reason people keep telling me it’s not a problem as long as I work hard. See for someone who is not rejected by society it’s just a matter of looking for the angles and making good business decisions. That “group” of people that you speak of quietly making changes, I’ve been waiting 20 years and if this is what they had in mind I’m disappointed.
It’s interesting… this idea that “as long as we (minorities [and women]) work hard we should be able to acheive whatever we desire” seems to be pervasive among a lot of people who’ve always enjoyed privilege. I’m pretty sure I used to believe it was true (I believed a lot of dumb things though… like how affirmative action is reverse racism and police are always the good guys). So I sort of know where Michael’s coming from. I really think it all comes down to a lack of experience. He’s never felt it so of course he doesn’t think it’s real.
The thing is, I don’t really know how you can convey that in an argument successfully unless the privileged party — white, male, hetero, whatever — is willing to acknowledge their own lack of experience in issues of prejudice and take you at your word and *listen.*
ABW has that post about how it isn’t up to whites to decide when racism is over; they don’t experience it. She’s absolutely right. But if white people don’t come to the discussion accepting that premise, how can they learn anything? They have to listen to the experiences of people *without* white privilege and accept the fact that in this area, their opinions *are* less valid. I think that’s very tough for people to accept. It means giving up some of that privilege they’ve always taken for granted. So to them, it seems like you’re… I dunno, somehow disenfranchising them or something (which is as ridiculous as claims about her white-bashing and reverse racism, but I think that’s how Michael and some other white people are reacting on this forum).
I dunno. I really like that post by ABW. Wish I could find the link. I think it really gets to the heart of race/gender/sexuality issues in our society, and explains WHY when ABW tells the frustrated white people who come here to shut up and listen, she’s right. They should. But too many of them won’t.
Ico..good points. But what I reacted to to is the absolutely absurd notion that ABW thinks there is nothing that blacks can learn from whites, and therefore comments from them should simply be dismissed. So here we are in 2007 and everything she writes is measured relative to white this, white that, but at the end o the day, she actually thinks it can be solved without even involving whites. ABW, as would others, learn volumes by simply involving whites in the discussion, understanding how whites view the various issues and getting to the nuggets of information that might help make more progress. Blacks in general sure do have a lot to say about whites, perhaps you should lose the arrogant psuedo-intellectual bs and listen to whites.as well considering we are not all haters and racists (as hard as that is for some to believe). To think that you are ultimately going to get to the place you want to be without involving whites and all races in the discussion and solution is quite honestly intellectually dishonest and simply silly.
Comments are closed.