politcal-ish / Racial / Social Commentary

Whitewashed TV

A while ago I wrote this piece about the lack of Black leads in BBC drama, Dancing on the Edge. Considering the show is about a Black jazz band in the 1930s, you’d assume majority of the lead roles would be Black. This then begs the question, where are all of Britain’s Black & POC talent? David Herman wrote an article in which he (& Lenny Henry) criticise the BAFTAs, and British television and radio for the lack of positive Black images on television, radio, and other popular media. All 31 BAFTA awards were given to white faces, and all nominations where either completely white casts or majority white casts. The weekly primetime schedule is a sea of white faces saving the world, delivering the news, being funny, commenting on sports, etc. and while you may get the occasional Black face doing one (or all) of these things, our media still remains very imbalanced.

Last week our news headlines were filled with the story of the two men who murdered a soldier in Woolwich. The men were Black and this has been emphasised repeatedly as the men, who are both British born & raised, are constantly being referred to as Nigerian. Generally speaking, when one sees “Nigerian” a white face is not the first face that comes to mind. Two weeks ago, two different rape gangs were uncovered by the police, one was made up of predominately Pakistani & Somali men, the other: white men. Only one of those cases made major headlines.

For centuries we have had to hear our narratives from white mouths, and we’ve had to see our pictures being conjured up by white imaginations. You’d think in 2013, in a proclaimed “post-racial” Britain, we would be in a position to speak for ourselves? To tell our own stories? To display our own talents?

I enjoy seeing Black faces on TV that are doing regular things, that are in dramas that are not about gangs or postcode wars or poverty, and comedies that aren’t about stereotyping cultures. Every week I face the same struggle, I actively search for shows that have a majority Black or POC cast, often settling to watch something American rather than British & even the search for those too are a little strenuous. When the season finale of Dr Who aired and it was revealed that John Hurt would be the twelfth Dr, I was disappointed. The Dr Who saga stops at #13 and I was kind of hoping we would see a woman, POC, WOC Dr towards these end times. Even on an article about the series, somebody commented saying they would like to see a woman doctor, I responded that a POC doctor would be nice too & they said they couldn’t see a POC doctor. Our media is so whitewashed that a Black Dr in a fictional show is unrealistic, and a show about a Black jazz band is really about corrupt white people.

It gets to the point where, as Herman says, we have to ask “where are the positive faces of Black-Britain?”

*POC – Person/People of Colour
*WOC – Woman/Women of Colour

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