Until we tell our own story…


THE African proverb: ‘Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,’ is living testimony to why people of colour across the world continue to be marginalised in key decision making structures.
Africa’s story continues to be distorted and misrepresented because those who write or tell our stories are foreigners.
Our colonisers divided us, and to this day, they have managed to maintain an upper hand by taking advantage of the minute differences that separate us as a people.
Russia, China and the US take up 11 percent, 6,3 percent and 6,1 percent of the earth’s land mass respectively and despite their vastness and large populations, their economies are thriving.
Hollywood is more than just a neighbourhood in Los Angeles.
It is a symbol of the motion picture industry of the US.
Hollywood doesn’t just dominate the domestic film market, American films and American co-productions dominate the list of top 10 films in the global market and in national markets in spite of protectionist cultural policies and national subsidies in many countries.
There are three factors that explain American dominance in the film industry, viz concentration of talent and resources, comparative advantage in economics of scale and means of distribution.
The US is not just the hegemony, but its pop culture is also hegemonic ideals that the US holds to be true and which, eventually, are adopted by lower tiers and subordinate countries.
For instance, the American view of development as fast, progressive, and industrial leaves little wiggle room for other countries influenced by American pop culture to create their distinct national identities or perspectives.
Hollywood sets the trend when it comes to most blockbuster films in general; the white saviour complex is a constant leitmotif.
These films perpetuate an idea that is essentially a historical banner of colonialism: People of colour need white people to save them. 
Many white people in films based on the stories of people of colour are often subliminally depicted as godlike saviours, heroes who are rational and judicious to the core. 
An example is that of The Blind Side, which, in 2010, won Sandra Bullock the Academy Award for Best Actress.
The movie was about a white mom who adopts Michael Oher, a young black boy who goes on to be an offensive lineman who played for the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers in the NFL.
Though there are some endearing moments throughout the film, it is, in a roundabout way, about how a white family’s belief in a black boy allowed him to become who he truly was.
Without them, his full potential would never have been realised. Therefore, it still employs exploitative power dynamics of someone needing to be ‘saved’.
An article in The Times, titled ‘The Hidden Factor in Hollywood’s Racial Diversity Problem’, noted: “Statistics show that there are three non-white people in America for every non-white character on the big screen; in terms of lead roles on broadcast TV comedies and dramas, there are seven non-white people in America for every non white character.
Similarly, there are half as many women in films as in real life although the amount of female lead roles on broadcast TV is on the upswing.”
The majority of the directors, producers and agents in Hollywood tend to be older white men. They are the gatekeepers, and what they allow through the gates is largely influenced by their own prejudices.
The end result is that non-white people are under-represented as filmmakers and actors.
Furthermore, as the roles and representations of people of colour are kept at a minimum due to these biases, when there is a role that necessitates a person of colour or a non-white actor, Hollywood has no problem whitewashing.
This is a casting practice in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles.
At times the character of a person of colour is rewritten so that a white actor can play the role.
In 2015, a BBC report noted two reasons for the casting practice; institutional racism and producers believing that well-known white actors attract more audiences and maximise profits.
Late last year, the Washington Post quoted Darnell Hunt, a sociologist and dean of social sciences at UCLA, who said that Hollywood essentially ‘whitewashes’ the narratives that influence the country, with shows that ignore or gloss over racial injustice.
Hunt had just released an 83-page study that examined 234 comedy and drama series across 18 broadcast, cable and digital platforms in the 2016-2017 season.
Fewer than 10 percent of the shows were led by minority show runners and only 14 percent of writers across all shows were members of a minority group, even though minorities represent nearly 40 percent of the population.
Two-thirds of the shows had no black writers.
Black writers, overall, accounted for less than five percent of the 3 817 writers across the shows, even though black people make up 13 percent of the population.
Until we begin to write, produce and showcase our own stories, no one will.
Our culture will be misappropriated and abused by producers and studios whose primary goals are to make money at the expense of our rich heritage, culture and lifestyles.


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