Idris speaks up

Many people often claim that America is the land of opportunity in that there are so many open doors to develop one’s education, employment, and overall standard of living in comparison to other countries. Because of the amount of safety nets and structure Britain has in place, we are often viewed as a middling country in that we have a huge middle class in comparison to a country such as America which is can be seen as the land of extremes in multiple contexts.

In January 2016, Idris Elba spoke up about the lack of racial diversity across British TV to over 100 MPs and asked a significant question regarding BME actors and actresses:

“Is their talent unfairly ignored?”

Idris Elba is not the first Black British celebrity to speak about the lack of diversity in British media. David Oyelowo spoke about opportunities for BME actors being worse now more than ever in 2015 and the comedian Lenny Henry spoke out in 2014. Now both Idris Elba snd Lenny Henry are signatories on a letter to broadcasters which urges funding to be provided for BME media.

However, considering the recent rise of the actor John Boyega from Peckham, South London, we can question whether there are any solid truth to these claims?:

  • Most literature with a BME protagonist is labelled as ‘black literature’ in most mainstream book shops such as WH Smiths and Waterstones, thus confined to it’s own section which is relatively small in comparisons to the rest of the shop. Little attention is paid to the actual genre of the book
  • It was found by the ‘Higher Education Statistics Agency’ that BMEs only compromise 10% of the audio-visual workers in London despite a quarter of the workforce in London being from a BME background
  • Studies have found that BME people occupy 11% of creative sector jobs in the UK. If this sector of truly representative of society, it would be 17.8%

Why is this a problem?:

  • For a country which highlighted their multicultural society in a positive light during their Olympic opening ceremony only four years ago, it is arguable that there has been little effort exercised by British media as a whole to create a true reflection of contemporary society in their work.
  • It has been found that only 18% of ethnic minorities in Britain solely watched mainstream TV, while 16% only watched ethnic programming. Consequently, in terms of media consumption, we aren’t getting our value for money
  • In 2014, a report by ‘Foreigners in UK’ found that 77% of British Asians surveyed felt as though mainstream advertising had no real relevance to themselves. 60% of BME participants in the study stated that they would be more likely to buy a product or service if it were advertised in their media. Thus portraying clear signs of alienation and a way to ultimately boost the economy simply by including a growing demographic in society

Yes, America is the land of extremism in many cases regarding their inequality, but are we simply the land of subtlety and exclusion? Active change must occur in our communities across all forms of media to make it a truly representative and inclusive society.

“Are black people normally playing petty criminals? Are women always the love interest or talking about men? Are gay people always stereotyped? Are disabled people ever seen at all?”- Idris Elba

By Priscilla McGregor-Kerr

Twitter & Insta: @Cillahope_

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Next edition: Monday 12th September

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