Last Updated on April 10, 2015 by Paulette Brown-Hinds
One of the hot topics today is the popularity of television programs that display a cast predominately made up of people of color like Empire, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Just Off the Boat, and Blackish. And just this past week, Comedy Central announced that Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old Black South African, would succeed Jon Stewart the host of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Apparently some people view this as too much diversity on television. Going so far as to voice their displeasure in articles and on other media outlets. However, these dissenting voices are in a minority because most polls conducted by companies on television viewership state that 49% of the viewership for shows with a heavy minority cast are White which is equivalent to the viewing audience for other popular mainstream shows.
This demonstrates to me that those who have issue with the programs are in the minority and people are not allowing color to cloud their judgment and are watching what they identify with: the same problems or issues in a format that is funny at times but remains entertaining and engaging. In other words if the content of the program is quality it makes no difference to them. This sentiment holds true when compared to television viewership back in the late 50s and 60s with the popularity of shows like I Love Lucy, starring Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball because it was funny with issues that people faced in their daily lives. The fact that Ricky could not speak the English language well was not important.
Now during the early days of television racism was a major part of the decision to put people of color on television because Whites would not watch the shows or producers did not trust the public to support them, unless it was Amos n Andy style. Whites would listen to Nat King Cole music but the southern Whites would not view him as host of a television show. Not until the Flip Wilson Show, I Spy with Bill Cosby, Robert Culp and Laugh In with Teresa Graves did the public begin warming up to Blacks being on television.
All of those shows had their detractors because of race but each year it became fewer. It became obvious to the television networks that people of color watched programs featuring people who looked like them and would spend money to look like their heroes on television.
One thing that has not been included in the discussion and that is the number of faces from Europe, Canada, Australia and now South Africa who play a major role in this new wave of television. Where do they fit into this minority voice of concern about who is on television? Some say that this current television programming represents the changing of America and the owners are trying to keep pace with this demographic reality.
From my experience of working in corporate America if the leadership does not change then the forces of change will change them. So I applaud the television networks for leading the way to help society break down some of the social stereotypes that have plagued our country for a long time. So to those few dissenting voices, diversity on television is not the issue but your racist view is.
Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.