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Is The Era of the Token Black Guy in Hollywood Over?

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Sterling K. Brown giving a speech at comic con

Once upon a time, black characters in movies and TV shows were used as a means of appearing “diverse”, and not as real, noteworthy characters. The roles we were given were as the help or as the person to get killed off first in a horror movie. But that has changed dramatically in recent years. All you have to do is turn on your TV or go to your local theater.

In his current interview with GQ, actor Sterling K. Brown addressed the diversity issue in Hollywood and how it has gone through a positive change lately. The actor, who has been celebrating a very hot acting career in the last two years with his Emmy winning performance in The People v. O.J. Simpson, said, “Hollywood is learning-oh, we can make a dollar off of these stories.” And on the subject of “the token black person” in TV and movies, he added “there’s often the sort of conversation that transpires behind closed doors, and I shall entitle this conversation: There Can Be Only One. Why can’t there be two black guys? Why can’t there be a black woman?”

This begs the question; Is the ear of the token black guy in Hollywood over?

Show creators like Lee Daniels, Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris have done a large amount of work to put more black faces in our TV screens in mainstream media. But the trend has gone past shows that would be perceived as “black shows”, those that majority of the time revolve around black families. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Private Practice have all showed us how multiple fully developed, intriguing, and long lasting black characters can occupy the same show. Opps! Did we just name shows all by Shonda Rhimes’ ShondaLand? That’s extra acknowledgment for Ms Rhimes and what she has done for black actors and actresses and the image of black people in general in mainstream media.

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Dear White People. Netflix

However, has the movement gone past just shows created by black show creators? As we went through the list of top TV shows for 2017 picked by Variety and Thrillist  we couldn’t help but notice that we could only spot a couple of shows with multiple black characters.

Is this simply a real representation of the population in the U.S. or a lack of diversity? Or is this a true reflection of our lives in America, still lived in segregation, where it is still common to be that token black friend in white circles?

Share your thoughts with us on this subject below.