Opinion | Hollywood’s Anti-Black Bias Costs It $10 Billion a Year

More than a century later, the need to confront racial stereotypes onscreen endures. According to McKinsey, “both on- and offscreen, Black talent is pigeonholed and funneled to race-related content, which often plays into stereotypes.” A 2016 Vox analysis found that 62 percent of onscreen gang members were Black.

Is it surprising, then, that the casual murders of Black people — both those captured on smartphones and the many more that preceded the smartphone era — are predicated on the perception of us as violent, criminal threats? (Similarly: Should we be shocked at the chillingly broad chorus of Americans chanting “Build the Wall” when so many Latino immigrant characters are shown engaged in criminal activity? And who can be genuinely surprised by the massacre in Atlanta, given the stories Hollywood has helped tell about women generally, and Asian women specifically?”)

It would be easy to mistake the Blacklight Collective’s solicitation of McKinsey’s work as grievance peddling. It’s not. It’s about business. Black people in Hollywood simply want to write, direct, produce, perform, photograph, negotiate, design and do hair and makeup for film and television, then profit from their labor in a manner that isn’t limited by the fact that they happen to be Black.

We all would love to be rid of the need to push for greater racial equity. We are also not naïve about the cold, hard truths. We do not expect that change in Hollywood will come out of the good in any leading executive’s heart. But we know that reversing the industry’s systemic racism is an extraordinary business opportunity — one that would benefit not just Black Hollywood, but all of Hollywood.

Without paying McKinsey a penny, the film industry can reclaim at least $10 billion in annual revenue, simply by addressing irrational, anti-Black market inefficiencies. The consultants also argue that there’s an even greater windfall to be had by addressing all the other market inefficiencies that stem from locking out other people according to race, gender, sexuality or disability.

Here’s a partial list of recommendations: Setting intersectional diversity targets onscreen, and especially offscreen, by expanding recruiting beyond traditional top-tier universities and film schools, increasing transparency around hiring and compensation and tying executive compensation to success in these endeavors.

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