‘The Hate U Give’: Unleashing the promise of media diversity

 In OpEd

During this year’s Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference, we hosted a seminal discussion with media executives of color with green light authority and the cast of The Hate U Give. The event was designed to showcase the promise of media diversity. But, more importantly, to get their collective insights into the state of diversity in the media industry and what if anything is being done to create more opportunities for people of color to own, control and distribute news and entertainment content.

Why is this discussion so important and the release of The Hate U Give so timely? It is important because whoever owns the story controls our reality. And, whoever controls our reality determines who wins and who loses. It is timely because we are in the midst of a call to action to address the continued lack of diversity in media ownership and control. This is a crisis with serious negative economic, social, and political implications.

News and entertainment media continue to have unparalleled power to mediate how we as Americans view and engage with each other. It’s been 50 years since the Kerner Commission issued its damning report and the lack of media diversity still remains a serious national problem. First, people of color now comprise over 40 percent of the population but have almost no significant ownership in an industry that represents over 20 percent of the economy, and the few existing outlets are struggling to survive.

Second, media bias and stereotyping continue to fan the fire of hatred and division. This is evidenced by the heightened level of hostility between law enforcement and communities of color, the tension between the working class and social elites, the increased hostility toward immigrant groups, and distrust of the media by rural and other marginalized communities.

Third, dying local news outlets are negatively impacting community awareness and civic engagement. And, worse of all, not seeing positive stories about their community continues to stifle the dreams and aspirations of marginalized people across this nation.

Through this darkness, The Hate U Give is a ray of hope that again serves as undeniable evidence of the positive economic, social, and political benefit of giving creatives, executives and entrepreneurs of color the power to determine if, how and what story is told. Just as Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians were heralded for breaking myths about box office and commercial success, The Hate U Give should be equally heralded for increasing social awareness and discourse around some of the most troubling issues dividing our country along racial lines.

We commend Fox for giving Audry Wells and George Tillman the support needed to showcase this brilliant and balanced film that challenges many of the misconceptions that hurt efforts to brings us together as a nation.

We salute the successful release of this film as not just being good news for Hollywood, but as being good news for our nation. We likewise salute the myriad of individuals and organizations who continue to tirelessly work to secure increased media diversity and believe strongly that their work should be highlighted and supported.

Real change, however, will not happen until the body politics gets Washington to join the fight and start treating media diversity as a top priority. That is why the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association (MMCA) has launched a petition calling on Congress to pass the resolutions introduced by Congresswoman Val Demings and Senator Dean Heller that, among other things, calls on Congress to reaffirm its commitment to increasing media diversity and support efforts like ours to create innovative common ground solutions.

Many people have asked me why have I co-founded the MMCA and become so resolved to eliminate the barriers to media ownership? My answer is simple. Owning our reality is critical to our success. I want my beautiful Black son to grow up in a world where who he sees and how Black and brown people are portrayed in the media inspires him to dream big dreams and feel confident in his ability to achieve them.

The powerfully portrayed story in The Hate U Give and the insightful and inspirational words Regina King, Russell Hornsby and Common shared during our ALC discussion energizes me and further fuels my resolve. My vision is a thriving media industry where George Tillman is no longer the few, but the many. Where positive stories about my community told from my perspective are no longer an anomaly, but the norm.

I welcome all who would love to see this vision come to fruition to join our tribe. Together we can move the needle on media diversity.

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Multicultural Media Correspondents Association