Originally published Jan. 13, 2016
Question from a DiversityInc reader: Hollywood diversity is a bit like NCAA diversity, isn’t it? Gotta sell tickets, gotta win, gotta be successful. What plays is what wins most, and what wins is what’s playing. All those silly little kiddies on campus fighting micro-aggression, white privilege and hating the way they see so many white faces in the faculty and administration somehow just aren’t as concerned about proportional representation on their sports teams, are they?
Luke Visconti: Very good, but incomplete. The NCAA and Hollywood are similar — they are modern-day plantations. The NCAA, by far, is the most cruel plantation: run almost entirely by white men, the work is done by mostly Black people — and despite their efforts bringing in tens of BILLIONS of dollars, the players do not get long-term health insurance or scholarship guarantees and cannot even earn money from their own image!
I looked up the names on the NCAA board and stopped after finding five white men in a row. There are no pictures of the NCAA BOD on their website (I’d bet their PR person advised against it), but this website put together a composite: http://colinwilliamweaver.com/category/ncaa/ncaa-mbb/.
The NCAA has an endless supply of fresh meat for the traumatic brain and joint injury factory because college professional sports are THE path to the professional sports teams that actually pay their players. It is an opportunity.
When groups of people have opportunities that are narrowly funneled, they tend to excel at them.
Hollywood is also a plantation — the major studios are run almost entirely by white men. The Sony email leak demonstrated how racist the industry is. The decision-maker demographics of the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, etc., are documentation. Hollywood just doesn’t seem to have the common sense to not put the picture in front of the entire world like the NCAA does.
The main difference between the NCAA and Hollywood is Jackie Robinson. Without the moneymaking inclusion of Black players in professional sports starting in the 1950s, sports would still be lily white and the NCAA would be making tens of millions, not tens of billions. Hollywood is far more of a dictatorship. Star Wars has made almost $1.6 billion at the box office so far, but the latest news is that it’s not very popular in China. I wonder if the almost all-white cast and all-white producers and directors have something to do with that. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jan/11/star-wars-the-force-awakens-avatar-china
The all-Chinese audiences in China, people proud of their country’s economic success and 5,000-year-old culture, aren’t flocking to see an all-white cast with a couple of Black tokens thrown in and not a single Asian main character? Who could’ve guessed?
We look at $1.6 billion and say “wow that’s successful,” but many people never consider the cost of bad diversity.
For more of Luke’s columns, visit DiversityInc.