Hollywood’s anti-Black bias costs it $10 billion a year

By | April 24, 2021

Franklin Leonard writes:

Days after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, suffocated George Floyd and the video went viral, I watched my social media feed fill with blackout tiles and corporate publicity statements. They poured in from every industry, proclaiming solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Hollywood — where I have worked for almost two decades — was no exception.

Far from offering relief, each new assertion by a talent agency, film studio, television network or streaming service that “silence is complicity” and that “we must do better” felt like a pinch of salt in a gaping wound. I found myself unable to ignore the gap between these meticulously workshopped platitudes and the daily words and actions I’ve witnessed in Hollywood, which reflect values I knew cost not only dollars but lives: How many movies like “Black Panther” have we not made? And more broadly, how many lives have we lost in part because of the dehumanization of Black people that Hollywood has perpetuated for more than a century?

Two weeks later, McKinsey and Company — where I worked as a business analyst from 2001 to 2003 before decamping to California to become an assistant at Creative Artists Agency — entered the fray, with a pro bono commitment to “work globally to advance racial equity and economic empowerment among Black communities.” As a representative of the Blacklight Collective, an informal group of Black Hollywood executives, I suggested that the consulting giant conduct a study on the state of Black people in Hollywood.

Its report was released last month. Despite its anodyne title — “Black Representation in Film and TV” — it contained shocking revelations. Or at least shocking to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention.

The study concluded that America’s film industry is the country’s least diverse business sector and that its systemic anti-Black biases cost it at least $10 billion in annual revenue. Black content is undervalued, underdistributed and underfunded, the analysis found. It also found that Black talent has been systematically shut out of creator, producer, director and writer positions. That is despite the fact that films with two or more Black people working in those roles made 10 percent more at the box office per dollar invested than films with no or only one Black person in those capacities. [Continue reading…]