When I read Sir Trevor McDonald had "blasted the BBC for discriminative job adverts" I felt a mixture of dread, anger and anguish wash over me so strong it almost took corporeal form and strangled me. Sir Trevor has joined MIA, Azealia Banks and Zoe Saldana on a list of prominent people of colour who seem obligated to further disenfranchise other people of colour using their platforms of privilege to do it.
Sir Trevor's comments are inflammatory and work to usurp the efforts of those working to address the glaring racial inequalities within the BBC. I am particularly shocked and saddened by his statements because if anyone knows and has seen first hand how the British Television industry is dominated by white men, you'd think it would be Trevor McDonald. Alas, I was wrong. Whether or not that was his intention, Sir Trevor has played into the hands of those keen to hijack the BBC's Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) recruitment initiative to perpetuate the disgusting falsehood of an "anti-white" agenda.
Having any privilege whether it is race, gender or wealth based can render you myopic and incapable of seeing issues affecting those who do not share your privilege as valid concerns. You see this time and time again and it is particularly disturbing, disheartening when it is people of colour who unconsciously assist in derailing and dismantling strides made in achieving racial equality within the entertainment industry.
More than being hurt by Sir Trevor's flippant and insensitive comments, I'm dissapointed. The idea that the scheme would be "taking someone and putting them in a job because they’re black, brown..." incites dangerous rhetoric and rallies against qualified (in many cases overqualified ) minorities who are denied opportunities simply because of their lack of access and the colour of their skin. The fact that a learned, distinguished black man like Sir Trevor McDonald chooses not acknowledge this is woeful.
I work in television and I am telling you there is a problem with the number o people of colour in positions of power in the industry. My own journey of getting into the industry speaks directly to the issue at hand. We are diaproportionately represented in roles as executives, show runners, writers, directors, script editors etc and the poor state of diversity in British programming is as of a direct result. For heaven's sake, even Idris Elba stood before Parliament and made a case for why something has to be done to rectify the fact that the people we see on TV do not reflect the society we live in.
I read a contentious interview in the Radio Times magazine with Sir Ben Kingsley. To be honest, I just thought he was white but in fact he is mixed race and his name at birth was Krishna Bhanji.
"As soon as I changed my name, I got the jobs. I had one audition as Krishna Bhanji and they said, ‘Beautiful audition but we don’t quite know how to place you in our forthcoming season.’ I changed my name, crossed the road, and they said when can you start?...But the irony is of course I changed my clunky invented Asian name to a more pronounceable, and acceptable, universal name in order to play Mahatma Gandhi."
In Sir Ben Kingsley's case in order to overcome the challenges his ethnicity posed to his career progression he simply changed his name and leaned on his ability to pass as a white man. Unfortunately for the ready, willing and overly able people of colour who the BBC's scheme aims to employ we neither have the desire to change our names to "less clunky" European ones nor do we have any proximity to whiteness which we can call upon.
Sir Trevor failed us in his statements by dealing a blow to our fight for recognition and equality
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