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American television is too white, lacks representation

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Illustration by: Rachel Bostick | Staff Illustrator

The lack of racial diversity on American television has recently been rightfully challenged. Society has gone from watching black-and-white television screens to, well, just white.

Whiteness on television has always been a societal norm and has not left much room for anything different. Many may argue that people of color have their own channels, like Black Entertainment Television, for example. Many may retaliate by mentioning the trusty nonwhite character sidekick to the all empowering white protagonist. Both are petty excuses to squander any exploration into the lack of racial diversity on television.

One channel or nonwhite character is not sufficient representation of minorities in this country. More importantly—and I cannot stress this enough—accurate representation is not achieved by playing on stereotypes.

Television is nowhere near reaching modern standards of diversity in many ways—actors, writers, directors, producers, etc. Popular entertainment shows have tried dissuading this conflict by creating one ethnic role with hardly any lines or by playing on ridiculous stereotypes. That being stated, minorities are still widely underrepresented and misrepresented.

Lately, many celebrities of color have taken it upon themselves to bring attention to this debate. At the Golden Globe Awards, America Ferrera and Eva Longoria hilariously joked about the fact that Hollywood views all Latina actresses as practically the same person.

Oscar Isaac, the Guatemalan actor who plays Poe Dameron in the new Star Wars film, talked diversity in his backstage speech at the Golden Globes. Aziz Ansari has also comically addressed the issue of diversity regarding Asian actors. The list continues with a number of celebrities using their fame to voice their input about the taboo topic of race and representation.

A hashtag broke out recently on twitter that spurred a lot of debate regarding representation. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trended and many stars joined in to point out the lack of multiculturalism in Hollywood.

People of color continue to break boundaries and achieve amazing roles—not solely through Hollywood, but through any means of exposure. All of which To borrow from Isaac’s backstage speech, “…the people that cast films and TV shows, hopefully they will be able to see past their limited ideas of what ethnicity is.”

The urge to promote diversity is not a fight for superiority, nor a fight to take over television. It is a matter of social justice and better cultural norms. It most certainly is not solely for our own benefit, but also that of young and impressionable children who are the most avid television viewers.

Children are affected in one way or another when they do not see themselves represented in their favorite television shows. Diversity on television will serve as a means to broaden their horizons and to uplift their self-esteems. In the future, it will also serve as a gateway to a stronger unity between people.

Displaying multiculturalism on screen is certainly a much more realistic approach to the real world. Honing that unity would also serve as a new norm for upcoming generations to witness and learn from.