June 2020 is the month of reckoning for systemic racism in the entertainment industry

What #OscarsSoWhite failed to do, has been accomplished in June 2020 thanks to the dialogue around systemic racism in America


                            June 2020 is the month of reckoning for systemic racism in the entertainment industry
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While change is usually incremental, there is no doubt that certain moments define history and symbolize the tipping point. It took Rosa Parks to defy segregation laws to spark the Montgomery bus boycott. There had been others before her who had defied segregation laws, but she was the face of the movement. 

Police have killed unarmed black men before, repeatedly. But it is George Floyd's death on video that has been the final outrage that broke the dam. A lot has been spoken about how "black forgiveness" was no longer on offer, a significant shift from earlier reactions from the black community opting to heal rather than exacerbate racial tensions. As anger spilled on to the streets, it was impossible to dismiss or minimize or ignore how systemic racism was embedded in the nation's DNA.

This questioning among white gatekeepers and authority figures probably wouldn't have occurred despite the George Floyd protests if it wasn't for Amy Cooper, who used the respectful term "African American", while trying to weaponize her race privilege in her fake hysterical call to the police.

Being a racist is a bad thing to be in the modern world so much so that when white people are called out on it, they can even quote the dictionary to prove that they are not being 'strictly racist'. They can look at officer Derek Chauvin and see one bad cop rather than the institutional, systemic racism underpinning the tragedy.

However, Amy Cooper's actions on that day was a mirror to white society at a time when the nation was on lockdown with time to introspect. As social media channels buzzed incessantly about officer Derek Chauvin and Amy Cooper, America was forced to confront the two faces of racism. It was easy not to see oneself in Derek Chauvin's brutality but Amy Cooper was harder to ignore because of how she weaponized her racial privilege on autopilot. 

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As black creatives called out the industry about the different instances where they had faced racism, from microaggressions to more serious instances of prejudice, the accusations could no longer be ignored. When Samantha Marie Ware accused Lea Michele about her behavior on sets, calling out her hypocrisy for tweeting her support for the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, Michele had to apologize, especially after HelloFresh cut their sponsorship deal with her. Similarly, the liberal Jimmy Kimmel and Jenna Marbles had to apologize for performing in blackface, singer Lady Antebellum and the group Dixie Chicks for their stage handles, .  

Netflix also put pressure in its own way by calling out the industry on not hiring more black creatives. In its June 10 tweet, it said "When we say 'Black Lives Matter', we also mean 'Black storytelling matters'. With an understanding that our commitment to true, systemic change will take time, we're starting by highlighting powerful and complex narratives about the Black experience." Since then, networks and media conglomerates have been falling over each other trying to show that there will be concerted action taken to address overt and covert racism, instead of the usual platitudes trotted out.          

What #OscarSoWhite failed to do, has been accomplished in June 2020. Starting with HBO Max pulling 'Gone With the Wind' and then relaunching it with a disclaimer and contextualizing introductory video to Disney deciding to rebrand the popular 'Splash Mountain' attraction at Disney park to a 'Princess and the Frog' themed ride to Amazon reportedly debating the removal of 'The Dukes Of Hazzard' from its free IMDb TV streaming which features the Confederate flag.

Television cartoons — from 'Big Mouth' to 'Simpsons' to 'Central Park' to 'Family Guy' to 'Bojack Horseman' -- have all seen a shakeup. Established sitcoms and older comedy series like 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' to '30 Rock' and 'Scrubs' are responding too. All these productions are taking a look at their old content to delete racist tropes and are also looking to recast and rewrite upcoming seasons to better represent and voice the black community and people of color.

It is a change that has been a long time coming and those networks and streaming platforms that had already been promoting black creatives are certain to see a windfall.

Disclaimer : The views expressed in this article belong to the writer and are not necessarily shared by MEAWW.