In light of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, and the hundreds of other unarmed black and brown people, many companies are reevaluating their business practices. For example, beauty brand owners and influencers such as Sharon Chuter and Jackie Aina, have partnered up to create challenges like #PullUpOrShutUp. The challenge is a movement asking companies to put out information about the diversity of their staffs (executive and non-executive), and what they are doing to support communities of color in such a challenging time.
Aside from releasing information about the diversity within their companies, many have donated to various organizations to support the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement has seemingly inspired a wave of celebrities across Hollywood to decide to back down from roles. On Thursday, June 25th, actress Jenny Slate put out a statement about her decision to stop voicing the character of Missy on the Netflix hit series, Big Mouth. Slate stated,
"I have come to the decision today that I can no longer play the character of 'Missy' on the animated TV show 'Big Mouth.' At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play 'Missy' because her mom is Jewish and White - as am I. But 'Missy' is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people. I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of social white supremacy, and that in me playing 'Missy,' I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people. Ending my portrayal of 'Missy' is one step in a life-long process of uncovering racism in my actions."
She went on to say that she realized the decision was a mistake, and that in the future she will continue to engage in movements to fight against racism. I admire Slate for coming out with this statement. Her decision to remove herself from the role sparked national conversations. Kristen Bell also stated that she would no longer voice a POC character on AppleTv's Central Park. The creators of The Simpsons also made statements about their plans to no longer allow white voice actors to voice POC characters. All of these changes are making way for effective change in the media industry moving forward, my confusion comes from those who thought the decisions were okay in the first place? Many producers use casting tactics such as blind casting or casting without taking an actor or actress' race into consideration, to try to diversify their cast. But such practices have their own problematic issues. With actresses like Bell and Slate taking roles that are created to reflect characters of a different cultural background, it only makes the characters assimilate to a certain form of whiteness. It also allows unsettling stereotypes about the characters' backgrounds to play out within the roles.
Overall, actors of color should ultimately be considered for all types of roles. Especially those that are animated and represent diverse cultural backgrounds. POC voice-actors such as Cree Summer, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Regina King are just a few of the talented actors and actresses that could be considered for such roles. Allowing actors of color to shine in these roles opens doors for not only them but future generations who are aspiring to follow in their footsteps. It also creates space for conversations on how to eliminate microaggressions and underlying racism in media to be held across multiple platforms. I hope that moving forward producers will diversify their casts, executive teams, editors, and anyone involved with production, to avoid making similar mistakes. Actors and actresses of all backgrounds deserve a seat at the table.