The problem with race in TV

The problem with race in TV

Michael Colton, Entertainment Columnist

It’s time for a change.

Despite 116.4 million homes owning TVs in the United States, and Americans watching five hours of TV per day, the true diversity of our nation is still not reflected on screen.

How can it be that with more than 100 primetime TV shows each week, almost none have truly integrated casts? looked at the most watched TV shows in 2014-15, and nearly all fail to show diversity. Of the top eight programs on the list, nearly all fail to project the true diversity of our nation. For the The Big Bang Theory, number one on the list, one out of ten main characters is a person of color, and the only character of color has been written into the show as what many perceive to be a stereotype of college-age Indian men. Scorpion, number eight, has zero cast members of color. Even the programming of Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football is dominated by a white commentary crew. The prejudice does not get much clearer than that.

For six out of the eight most popular shows on TV to display predominantly white casts means that roughly 40 percent of the country’s population is left out of mainstream media. And when people of color are included in these programs, it seems less about truthfully promoting diversity and more about forcing race-themed humor into the plot of the show. This should never be the focus unless the intent is to spark meaningful social discussion (as is done in shows like The Wire and Orange is the New Black).

The fact that it takes a show like Empire, which displays a nearly all black cast, to give people of color the screen time they deserve is ridiculous. Empire is one of a few mainstream shows to have a cast that isn’t dominated by white actors, but for such a compelling show, the race of its characters should not be its biggest talking point among the TV industry. But this is still the case, even for a show that is enjoyed by such a wide audience.

Television is viewed by millions of people each day, and it is time for network executives to start realizing that these viewers are not all white. In a nation that prides itself on being a “melting pot,” it is only right that our media shows this not through exploiting people of color, but by truly displaying diverse groups of people as they exist in the United States.