A primarily white entertainment industry leaves $10 billion on the table every year

March 12, 2021, 9:24 PM UTC

A new report from McKinsey quantifies the opportunity costs of excluding Black talent from the entertainment industry, Minneapolis settles the wrongful death case with the family of George Floyd, and stopping anti-AAPI violence is everybody’s job.

But first, here’s your end-of-the-pandemic-is-coming week in review, in Haiku.

Independence Day 
is coming! By July 4
we wave our masks in

the air and gather
like we just don’t care about,
you know, dying from

an airborne illness.
Tick tock, people! Better wrap
up that novel you’ve been

putting off writing.
Have you exfoliated?
Excuse me while I

I dust off my stash 
of red Solo cups, and
work on my six-pack abs.

Wishing you a happily unproductive but optimistic weekend..

Ellen McGirt

In Brief

McKinsey is out with a must-read report on the specific barriers Black talent continues to face in the $150 billion entertainment industry. Bottom line, the analysis shows that Black-led projects are consistently underfunded, despite a demonstrated track record of financial overperformance, and the presence of Black professionals with creative control — producers, directors, writers — hasn’t grown in fifteen years.

The study starts by doing the heavy lifting of quantifying the business case for diversifying the industry. “By addressing the persistent racial inequities, the industry could reap an additional $10 billion in annual revenues—about 7 percent more than the assessed baseline of $148 billion. Fewer Black-led stories get told, and when they are, these projects have been consistently underfunded and undervalued, despite often earning higher relative returns than other properties.”

The researchers assessed more than 2,000 films and interviewed a wide array of industry professionals to map more then 40 “pain points” that people experience across the complex media ecosystem that signal obvious areas for improvement. (Here’s a good place to start: Eighty-seven percent of television executives and 92 percent of film executives are white.) McKinsey also got my attention by collaborating with the BlackLight Collective, a powerful coalition of Black industry professionals, including The Black List founder and raceAhead treasure, film executive Franklin Leonard. (More about him here and here.)

I asked Leonard how he thought the industry would react to the analysis and roadmap for change.

"I think that remains to be seen,” he said via e-mail. “In the immediate term, I would hope that the industry would begin to treat this issue as it is, a minimum eight figure annual business failure with extraordinary global moral ramifications on top of that.” Can they ignore their fiduciary duty or are we really talking about something else here?  “We know how business typically responds to the opportunity to increase their revenue by 7% year over year. We'll see how they respond in this case and how boards and shareholders respond to their success or lack thereof."

On Point

Minneapolis settles lawsuit with George Floyd’s family for a record $27 million. While the family’s attorneys call it the "largest pre-trial settlement in a civil rights wrongful death case in U.S. history," the move is part of a predictable pattern. When police do bad things, their cities pay up. The National Police Funding Database from the Thurgood Marshall Institute maintains an eye-opening database. Here’s just one entry: An analysis from the Wall Street Journal found that between 2010 and 2014, the City of Los Angeles paid some $57.1 million on police misconduct cases. All of this begs a bigger question: Wouldn’t it be cheaper to screen out repeat offenders and recruit and train officers correctly?
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Harry Potter actor Katie Leung was coached to lie about racist fans Leung, who was cast in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when she was 16 — shares her painful tale in Buzzfeed. Anyone who followed the experience of Star Wars star Kelly Marie Tran might have expected this behavior from galaxy bros, but for some reason, racist rants from kid lit fans feels particularly jarring. When she asked her publicists about a hate site dedicated to her, she was coached to play dumb. “’Oh, look, Katie, we haven't seen these, these websites that people are talking about,’” she was told. “’And you know? If you get asked that, just say it's not true, say it's not happening.'"

Include Asians and AAPI in the American story where they belong  Civil rights expert john a. powell, the Director of UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute, has written a powerful essay that acknowledges the complexity of the AAPI experience in the U.S. and calls for a national commitment to end the violence against them. He asks that politicians (including the Biden Administration), the media, and each of us do better, first by acknowledging how the ugly century-old stereotypes about Asian immigrants infect our understanding, but also by considering how marginalized groups are often pitted against each other. “This is why we need a new story for what's happening in our communities today, and that story must include Asian Americans as Americans, too. Some of our leaders are still clinging to the old story, the one that tries to drive a wedge between us.”
Belonging at Berkeley


On background

When you say diversity, I hear a symphony This is the powerful takeaway from a TEDx talk delivered by Oshoke Abalu, an architect, futurist and co-founder of the innovation consultancy, Love & Magic Company. “We are in an unprecedented age of accelerating change,” she says. And in a prescient, pre-pandemic observation, she notes that the workplace itself should no longer be a barrier to progress. “The most innovative organizations look around and are now beginning to perceive that workplaces are more than just physical spaces, but states of mind where people and organizations support and celebrate problem solving.” Are you prepared to make beautiful music together?

The inside story of the “flatten the curve” graphic The #FlattenTheCurve graphic became the defining image of the coronavirus pandemic, a simple way to explain how small steps like hand-washing and self-isolation will slow new infections and lighten the load on the health care system. Mark Wilson tracked down its source. “With roots that trace as far back as a 2007 paper published by the CDC, the core scheme of Flatten the Curve is an idea that’s been repeatedly remixed by health experts to reach its final, clearest form, proposed by New Zealand epidemiologist Siouxsie Wiles and drawn by illustrator Toby Morris,” he says. But now, with 4.5 million social media impressions and counting, it’s become the literal poster child for design impact. “This is my favorite dataviz about the coronavirus,” says Mauro Martino, founder of the Visual AI Lab at IBM research. “The message is altruistic: we must help sick people who need to be hospitalized.”
Fast Company

Stop playing devil’s advocate already. Seriously, stop. It’s a sketchy move under the best of circumstances, but when it’s about race, it’s downright insulting. Advice columnist Mallory Ortberg responds to a black reader who was sent an article during a discussion with a white friend that resurrected the racist belief that some races, ahem, have lower IQs than others. The coworker then covered his tracks with “hey, I’m just saying that this is what people say” disclaimer. Yes, Ortberg says, you can be upset by this. “Why does he feel like it’s important to communicate those beliefs by proxy, and why did he think it was important to communicate them to you specifically?” Either say what you’re going to say and own it, or admit that you just don’t know what you don’t know about race. Gah.


This edition of raceAhead was edited by David Z. Morris

Today's mood board

Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station (2013). The film's creative team overcame the film industry's underinvestment in Black-led projects to create a launching pad for major stars. That included not just Jordan ("Where's Wallace, String?"), but director Ryan Coogler, who would go on to helm Black Panther, one of the highest grossing films of all time.

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