In an open letter to Hollywood, Black writers are calling for Hollywood to become more accountable and support aspiring and working writers
Following the killing of George Floyd by police officers, there is a new Black renaissance we have not seen since the Civil Rights Movement of the late 60s and 70s. Now, after many Hollywood studios announced their support for Black Lives Matter, writers are calling for better accountability and the end of systemic racism in the film industry.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, Black writers are looking for Hollywood to redo their hiring practices to allow for more progress among writers and content creators of color in the industry.
On Friday, the Writers Guild of America West published an open letter from the Committee of Black Writers (CBW). The “Letter to Hollywood” is calling for a major change in the way the TV and film industry hires writers and to partner with schools to prepare Black creators to join the business. It also calls for accountability.
“Either you commit to a new, institutionalized system of accountability with and to Black writers, or you prove that you’re putting on just another strategic, virtue-signaling performance deemed necessary to survive the times,” the writers said in the letter, signed by Michelle Amor and Hilliard Guess, co-chairs of the CBW, and Bianca Sams, its vice chair.
Writers say more needs to be done to address the systemic problems from the lack of access Black filmmakers, writers, and creators have to the industry.
“We Black writers who have ‘made it’ in Hollywood have still been denied jobs at all levels, passed over for opportunities we were qualified for, rejected from writers’ rooms because of a ‘lack of experience,’ unsupported when seeking to create content specifically for Black audiences, critically underpaid and mistreated compared to white counterparts, and historically ignored during awards season,” the CBW wrote in the letter.
The letter points out how Hollywood productions block Black writers and other minority groups. As evidence, they highlighted the 2020 Inclusion Report, which found, “systemic discrimination against writers from underrepresented groups remains pervasive,” while white writers received 80% of all film jobs in 2018, while Black writers only received 5.6% of writing jobs, according to UCLA’s 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report. “Some have tried to blame this on a shortage of Black writers, yet there are at least 808 self-identified Black writers in the Guild; we have been here, ready to work,” the writers said.
“When you need us (and you will need us), you now know where to find us,” the letter ended. “Have your people call our people.”
Meanwhile, YouTube is spending a $100 million to support Black creators. “At YouTube, we believe Black lives matter and we all need to do more to dismantle systemic racism,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote in a Thursday morning blog post where she revealed the multiyear fund “dedicated to amplifying and developing the voices of Black creators and artists and their stories.”
“The execution of George Floyd — and Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Arbery — has led to unprecedented protests for racial justice in every part of our nation — and globally. And it started in part because 17-year-old Darnella Frazier defiantly and courageously recorded the video that has forced us all to confront what we were seeing and name it,” said Malika Saada Saar, a civil and human rights lawyer and social impact human rights lead at YouTube. “Video can be a powerful human rights tool for bearing witness to injustice, and Bear Witness, Take Action will be part of that hope and urgent call for change.”