Hollywood: One Shade of White

"But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You're in LA, you've got to try not to hire Mexicans."

That's Chris Rock, from his "Blistering Essay on Hollywood's Race Problem."

It's hard to believe more than 50 years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr.'s powerful "I Have a Dream" speech.

Ironically and sadly, back then, it was black and white television, and today, it seems we only have white.

Recent studies show that although minorities and people of color make up half of cinema audiences, only 10.8 percent of speaking characters are black, 4.2 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Asian and 3.6 percent are from other (or mixed race) ethnicities. Speaking characters who are white make up 76.3 percent.

The recent Oscar nominations added fuel to the hot topic. Selma, the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic was nominated for best picture, but many were outraged that male lead David Oyelowo and director Aya Duvernay were overlooked.

Oyelowo didn't beat around the bush, highlighting that Blacks, Latinos, Asians and other minorities don't just struggle with recognition, but worse, finding roles that don't perpetuate negative stereotypes and caricatures.

He said in an interview, "Generally speaking, we as black people have been celebrated more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings or being in the center of our own narrative, driving it forward."

So, what the big deal? It matters because what happens on the big screen never stays on the big screen; media may be intended for entertainment, but it's also education.

When the average person spends 20 to 30 hours per week engaged in media, it's inevitable that people will mimic behaviors and adopt unrealistic standards. And, of course, Hollywood's influence extends far beyond the US.

"Bollywood" is India's largest and most influential industry. More than just taking a similar name, the obsession with lighter skin has dominated the nation. The sale and use of whitening cream has become a multi-billion dollar industry there.

When white faces dominate the screens, it's no surprise whitening cream has spread through the culture.

Psychologists call it the "Copycat Effect." While bleaching your skin is a sad byproduct of Hollywood's influence, it pales in comparison to the hate crimes and prejudices that come from racial misrepresentation.

One of the strongest catalysts for change is YouTube.

The racial diversity among the most watched YouTubers only reaffirms the misrepresentation by the mainstream media. When the industry "gate-keepers" are cut out, multiculturalism -- and reality-- steps in.

Australian television, arguably worse than Hollywood when it comes to media whitewashing, is seeing positive change through the presence of minorities on YouTube.

Founders of the popular channel "Asian Boss," Stephen Park and Kei Ibaraki said one major motivation for their work was to change the public perception of Asians.

Social media platforms have been highly effective in dismantling the middle-men of traditional media.

With many great revolutions traced back to a single voice, there's much hope that technology can help carry a single voice much further.

Indeed, regarding creating a movement, activist Harvey Milk said, "There's always somebody who wants to confiscate our humanity, and there are always stories that restore it. If we live out loud, we can trounce the hatred and expand everyone's lives."

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