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A Personal Case for Greater Racial Representation


I just realised why I might be more compelled to take an interest in popular culture - BME (black and minority ethnic) representation - I can identify with people who look like me and the [real] world around me. More brown tones, less pale tones.


I've taken an active interest in US politics when Barack Obama was elected as President. I was hardly interested before. Dave Chapelle an African American stand-up comedian and actor (on Equanimity & The Bird Revelation, 2017) said, "like many black men in America, the first time I voted was in 2008 [when the first African American ran for president]." On a small scale that's change. On a large scale that could have a pretty powerful effect on the election outcome.


Another area of pop culture that's gaining traction for me (and thousands of others) is astrophysics, and bad ass African American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson. Heck, I vaguely knew what Astrophysics meant before Tyson popularised it. I bought and am reading one of his 14+ books on the subject, watch him on YouTube and have listened to his Star Talk radio show (the podcast with Lawrence Fishburn aka Morpheus from the matrix). Again a PoC (person of colour).


I've even a new found affinity for supercross, an American televised motorcycle racing series. I've dreamed of riding a motocross bike for years now. Yes, it's a sport, and loads of PoC are into sports. Yet it's far from the typical sports that PoC more commonly participate in, like athletics or basketball. Why does that matter? Because it's outside the paradigm of what people expect of PoC, which arguably makes PoC less likely to have an affinity with it, even less so to participate in it. Yet here's this supercross genius called James Stewart Jr., who inspired by (no better than his) motocross enthusiast father, has the second most career wins in the sport to date. And guess what? Yeah, you know it, he's black.


And back across the pond, I tuned into an episode of Have I Got News For You. Highly improbable for me. A programme I'd describe in the same way Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, described the FA, as tending to be “stale, pale, white old men.” The improbability occurred thanks to David Harewood, a Black British actor and TV presenter.


A president, a world famous Astrophysicist, a supercross superstar and a leading British actor (who happens to be black) are not the average participants in their respective fields. Their exceptions especially because they're not stereotypes, they're positive role models.


So admittedly it does take PoC to attain positions of power and generate a lot of visible success for me (and maybe not just me) to take a greater interest in popular culture. However, that's still more traffic to online news publishers, one more book sold and many more clicks on YT!


So greater interest is good for me (and probably other BMEs too) it's good for the famous and it's good for business.


Think, if I'm one of the thousands of increasing new viewers, the effects of that are huge. Huge because this could mean positive popular icons have got a growing BME fan base, businesses¹ have an expanding more diverse audience (plus potentially more revenue) and more employers will receive more applications from candidates of BME backgrounds. And that's one reason to support the argument that having a greater ethnic representation gives organisations a competitive advantage.


¹A report by McKinsey in January 2018 found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians

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