Every now and again you read a story that just forces you to do your best Homer Simpson impression, "Duh!" Such was the case when I read a new report released by the advocacy group Children Now. After studying the programming of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and WB, the group concluded that network television is "dominated by white men." "Duh!" Stevie Wonder could have told them that.
Clearly the folks at Children Now haven't been listening to Kweisi Mfume and the NAACP and their challenge of Hollywood for the whitewashing of the industry. The NAACP have even gone so far as to revive boycott plans -- urging viewers to stop watching television shows on the four major networks. Then again, it seems a whole lot of us have apparently stopped listening to the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization and question the relevance of its current structure and strategies. But I digress.
The Children Now study titled "Fall Colors 2000-01," examined the race, gender, class, sexual identity, disability and occupation of all characters in prime time comedies and dramas on the six broadcast networks for the current television season. They found that despite the networks' stated commitments to provide greater on-screen diversity, only small improvements were made over the previous season.
Overall, the study found that prime time is dominated by able-bodied, single, heterosexual, white, male adults under 40 Of all non-white groups African Americans faired best. At 17% we account for the majority of non-white prime time characters, followed by Asian Pacific Americans (3%), Latinos (2%) and Native Americans (0.2%). Although Latinos make up 12% of the national population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, their representation on prime time decreased from 3% of total characters in 2000 to 2% this year.
Whenever there was racial diversity, the study found that it typically came from the inclusion of non-recurring characters. Consider the fact that it made news when Gabrielle Union was being considered for guest appearance on the lily-white cast of the New York based NBC series "Friend."
When we did in fact have recurring roles, we were often limited in our career options. Only people of color filled the roles of domestic worker, homemaker, nurse/physician's assistant and unskilled laborer. White characters were more likely than African-American characters to be shown in professional business occupations while African Americans were more likely to play a law enforcement related role.
You may read the full report at www.childrennow.org