In case you wondered if we were making any progress on media diversity in entertainment criticism as storytellers, directors and actors of color in Hollywood start investing in a wider range of stories, the answer is no, according to a new USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report.
White critics authored 82% of reviews whereas critics from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups authored 18%. This point statistic is substantially below (-20.7 percentage points) U.S. Census, where individuals from underrepresented groups clock in at 38.7% of the population.
Looking at reviews through an intersectional lens, White male critics wrote substantially more reviews (63.9%) than their White female (18.1%) or underrepresented male (13.8%) peers. Underrepresented female critics only wrote 4.1% of the sample. The ratio of White women’s reviews to those of their underrepresented female counterparts was 4.4 to 1.
I wrote about this in my book in 2015, but it bears repeating: Diversity is a business imperative, not a moral imperative. It’s not just “nice to have,” it’s important to keep your business profitable.
I seek out the work of Wesley Morris and Hilton Als and Doreen St. Felix because they are talented writers and reporters and because I know they understand my worldview as well as the aesthetics and aspirations of the world builders who are working to center Black narratives. Bless Anthony Lane’s heart, I love to read his thoughts on anything else, but I give a damn what he thinks about Black Panther or Girls Trip or even Get Out.
The companies that hire and retain a diverse cadre of writers are the ones that will be around for the long haul. If most of the world doesn’t look like the critics who are supposed to be the experts on cultural products they don’t really get, how long do you think you’ll keep your audience?