Dr. King isn’t around to interpret his civil rights dream, but assume it’s gone off the rails more times than not under the unapproved adoption of his name. Everybody has their own definition now. Here’s mine. The dream was of a colorblind society. Where the playing field was entirely even such that your mutable qualities defined your place in life, not your immutable skin tone or gender or something Dr. King didn’t care to discuss in the 1960’s, your sexuality. From this universally noble vision acceptable to likely ninety-plus percent of the sentient population, grew an intensely, politically charged battle to pit demographics, one against each other, for slices of the same opportunity. Equality through fiat versus voluntary social contract. Some would argue that the former was required because the latter was simply never going to happen. As an example, statistics bare out the perennially unfavorable socio-economic outcomes for black Americans vs. white Americans. Though the modern solution of the dogmatic undeniably relies upon discrimination to cure discrimination. Can that ever be a real solution?
Hollywood has taken upon itself to be the leaders in the “inclusion” movement. It used to be called “diversity” but somebody tested the options out with marketing surveys and inclusion came back with the better connotations and positive brand feelings. This same Hollywood that has hardly been a bastion of inclusion throughout its history up to and around about yesterday. If there’s one thing notably privileged people hate, it’s being considered exclusionary. This despite the fact that adjective provides for the better explanation of the better part of their daily existence. Thus when confronted with any protests or pointing out of their big hedgerows designed to keep the riffraff at bay, they move immediately into dramatic overreact mode. These are entertainers after all. Actors are by definition trained liars, at least the good ones.
Elite Hollywood overreaction to being labeled bigots includes a twofold response: first, rapidly expand your social media and awards presentation show moral signaling. Be seen with guests of color. Retweet every diversity hashtag. Wear pins. Allow your business manager to write checks to the write causes, especially those where they list your name somewhere publicly. Insist that political action is needed and consider an up to half-hour appearance at a prominent march. That’s phase one. Nobody takes it seriously. Least of all the women of color who openly mocked privileged white women up to and through the 2016 election cycle.
Phase two entails leagues more more social engineering than traditional affirmative action plans of the past. The kind of super well-meaning plans that have left Asian-American students currently suing multiple universities for denying them access because they have too many “Asians” qualified for their schools. A rising tide lifts all boats, but man-made canals can only lift some by lowering others. This includes pushing forward on entertainment projects designed to affirm Hollywood’s commitment to “inclusion”. Certainly men have dominated the entertainment sector historically; true of every industry as women entered the full-time workforce en masse quite recently on the timeline of the species after ten thousand years of not. The procession of women to equal power as a gender group in Hollywood likely meets or equals any rival economic sector. This is especially true of Caucasian women who as a group, have benefitted far more from social actions plans designed for minorities in terms of educational and professional outcomes. Not merely far more, almost entirely more really. Caucasian women being the world’s first single largest population demographic that is also receives minority status. It’s a good setup if you can get it.
Hollywood’s plan to build movies and TV shows around woman, and to a lesser extent, racial minorities and people who love people of the same sex, isn’t particularly damaging to anybody save for the purist creatives who would ask that the best content gets funded, not simply the best women’s themed content. A meritocracy. But, who cares. There are tons of theaters and tons of channels, you don’t have to watch the tenth latest all-female cast 80’s movie reboot, or NBC’s bank robbing housewives, or even more highfalutin concepts like Big Little Lies, a very well done show about Volvo driving professional women and the toxic men who abuse them. The same goes for pushes for black or Latino fronted content, though not Asian content as they Asian-Americans demographically continue to be screwed by Hollywood like nobody’s business. Build a hashtag and host a sit-in, if I’m giving free advice. You could boycott the Oscars, but here’s hint, you weren’t invited in the first place.
The actual damage from defining employment by race or gender of sexuality is far more practical. Case in point, Netflix’s revival of the 1970’s sitcom, One Day at a Time. The original CBS show got picked up by Netflix on a re-do with permission from original creator, Normal Lear, and a commitment to make the new family in the show Latino. Show runner, Gloria Calderón Kellett, felt comfortable enough in her zealous ALL CAPS bubble to publicly announce the race, gender, and sexual orientation of her employees:
Fun fact about @OneDayAtATime SEASON TWO:
Our directors were ALL either women, POC or BOTH
Our writing staff is 50% female and 50% POC & 20% LGBTQIA+
Our guest cast was 61% female & 50% POC & disabled
Inclusive in front of and behind the camera. Watch some episodes tonight!
— Gloria Calderón Kellett (@everythingloria) March 6, 2018
Sure, that’s a fun fact. Unless you’re in the demographics the executive producer gleefully proclaims by inclusive exclusion are not equally worth mentioning on her show. That would be them hate-filled white guys. And likely Asians too. As noted, Hollywood picks and chooses its inclusive missions.
You wonder how we devolved into a situation where Kellett would feel not only comfortable and joyous defining her employees solely by their demographics, but how she would even know such stats among her work force. How does she know that 20% of her staff are gay? You’re not allowed to ask that during hiring or make mention of it during the course of employment. Gay men and women fought for that right because it has been a tool used to discriminate against them. As Black Americans fought for the same rules during the Civil Rights movement. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission through Title VII disallows employers asking or noting both potential hirers and employees immutable characteristics. The government maintains demographic stats for analysis under these same laws, but employers and even Hollywood executive producers are strictly forbidden from accessing. Not only are Netflix and their TV show-runners violating the spirit of the law in the name of their need to signal virtue, they may be violating the actual law. There’s a reason Dr. King himself fought for these changes; and those reasons are not the same as latter day Twitter-activists trying to amend them to enhance their personal status.
You have to wonder if overrepresentation of certain demographic groups solve the underlying issue of equal opportunity or does it merely pour a cocktail or three for itself and feel good for a few hours from the buzz? Making up for historical differences, even if by blatant discrimination by further discrimination seems like an iffy proposition. Delightedly highlighting the reverse discrimination as a reputation builder among your industry peers seems downright, well, racist. How else to define a company or individual that proudly aligns their moral scales through a prism of race?
There is no perfect world scenario in the real world. There are multiple ways to improve opportunity for all as a genuine goal, not merely a slogan. Some may be dirty, though they ought not. Advancing discrimination in hiring as a form of curing historical hiring imbalances is that kind of dirty. Labeling is inevitably a process that hasn’t worked well for the general social good of a society.
We should seek to reward people on talent and ambition and punish people on crimes and detrimental activities. If Harvey Weinstein sexually assaults women, he needs to be prosecuted and jailed. Every fat guy in town doesn’t deserve to be treated as a predator. If a hiring manager at Disney is discriminating against minority hires, they need to be fired and the company sanctioned. It’s immoral and illegal. That doesn’t mean every hiring manager is suspect, nor does it mean that every Caucasian male hired is evidence of discrimination.
If you happen to agree with highlighting your hiring and employment solely based on race or gender or your employee’s sexual identity, even if you’re certain you’re ends justify the means, ask yourself this — can’t you do better? If the answer is no, you’re no better than those you believe you’re combatting.