Eighty-four years after Lincoln Perry, Hollywood’s first Black movie star, was taken from the vaudeville “Chitlin Circuit” to star in In Old Kentucky, the discussion of Blacks in entertainment has been a fraught one. In the old days the main problem was that Blacks in film were used to represent awful stereotypes: lazy sambo, violent brute, etc. In the ensuing years, some of those stereotypes have remained — the Black gangbanger character, for instance — but the biggest concern now isn’t about bad African-American characters, but the presence of African-American characters at all.
In a new article posted to CNN’s website, a breakdown of Hollywood's “Walk of Fame,” that strip of sidewalk stars given to celebrities who have achieved the pinnacle of success in their field, shows that Blacks and other minorities are vastly underrepresented on the Walk and in Hollywood at large.
“In fact, of the 2,354 stars on Hollywood sidewalks, only 3.4 percent of them belong to Hispanics,” writes CNN. “The figure is 5.1 percent for African-Americans and a mere 0.4 percent for Asians, according to an analysis of the stars on the Walk of Fame.”
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which is responsible for giving out the stars, says it’s been making a concerted effort to improve the Walk’s diversity, a claim CNN checked out and found to be true. But the real issue has to be general diversity in film and television.
Putting more Black stars on the Walk is great, but the fact is that there aren’t a lot of Black stars when compared to white stars. Why is that? One reason is possibly because white audiences, which make up the bulk of audiences in America, don’t go see movies with Black actors in them. That makes Hollywood executives nervous to cast Black actors and actresses, which, in turn, keeps them off the Walk of Fame.
So while it would be nice for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to continue trying to boost the Walk’s diversity, let’s not kid ourselves and say that the problem doesn’t begin with the movie production companies themselves.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
(Photo: Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)
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