By now, I’m sure you’re all familiar with #OscarsSoWhite, the controversial Twitter hashtag that criticized and highlighted a prominent absence of diversity at film’s most prestigious award show.
The hashtag was originally created by blogger April Reign to express her frustrations with the Academy as well as her plans to boycott the 2016 Academy Awards because there were no people of color nominated in any major category.
Reign hit the nail on the head when it comes to the serious lack of movie diversity, but film isn’t the only industry we need to be worrying about; diversity is an issue across the board.
According to VIDA, a research-driven organization focused on promoting women’s writings, 20 percent of the 364 books covered by the New York Review of Books in 2011 were written by women. In another study, Roxane Gay, a professor of English at Purdue University, found that only 12 percent of those books were written by writers of color (including both men and women).
Comedy is not any better. Of the 19 people on the writing staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, 17 writers are men and only two are women. After years of criticism, Saturday Night Live finally added a black woman to its cast. Sasheer Zamata was the first black female SNL cast member in six years since Maya Rudolph.
As far as the video game industry goes, women and people of color are still vastly underrepresented. The majority of playable characters in high-budget video games are overwhelmingly white and male. The same goes for high-paid developers within the industry.
Popular music is one of the better entertainment industries in terms of diversity. According to Forbes, the biggest winner of the 2016 Grammys was rapper Kendrick Lamar and only two white men took home multiple awards this year.
However, the Grammys might be in an inherently better position to draw out diverse artists because it has built-in diversity with awards for rap, a genre that includes many artists of color.
You’d think drawing attention to the lack of people of color in the film industry would be a good thing, but so far it’s only exposed the lack of diversity across the entertainment industry. It’s clear now this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
There are already initiatives and programs, such as We Need Diverse Books, which strive to promote diversity in their respective fields, but without widespread support there is only so much they can do.
If we want to see more diversity in our entertainment—and we should want it because those statistics are terrible—there needs to be a fundamental change to the way the industry is run. Instead of allowing any part of the industry to be entirely, if not overwhelming homogenous, we need to promote real diversity and speak up when these standards aren’t being met.
We need to expect diversity everywhere—in our boardrooms, characters, writers, directors, staff, musicians, comedians, developers, actors and even in our award shows.
We need more people like April Reign to call out a lack of diversity when they see it and stand up against whitewashing of media (I’m looking at you Ghost in the Shell).
We all deserve to be represented, and to have our voices and cultural heritage heard. Maybe next year, #OscarsSoWhite will be a thing of the past. Or at least we can hope.