A few days ago, Radio 4 listeners expecting an early morning giggle courtesy of the nation’s ever beaming “black friend”, Lenny Henry, would have found themselves sorely disappointed. Guest presenting Radio 4’s Today programme, which featured an ethnically diverse panel, Henry discussed racism and diversity (or rather the distinct lack of it) in the media, a point he’s been driving home since last March when the comedian told a Bafta audience that the number of minorities seen on screen was “appalling”.
And it is. We rarely blink at all white casts in what no longer is an all white country, yet the notion of a black Bond is still turning stomachs.
Even the BBC’s discussion itself highlighted how prevalent the problem of underrepresentation truly is. It speaks volumes that when a panel consists of more than two minority members, it’s more often than not to discuss something race-related. We know if we’re faced with one too many brown faces on screen there’s a specific reason for it, and if we grin and bear it we’ll be faced with our regular, white cast by tomorrow. With the black and Asian population currently standing at 14 per cent nationwide and 40 per cent in the media Mecca of London, our measly 6 per cent representation in television simply doesn’t suffice.
Non surprisingly, tweeters in their swarms attacked Lenny for “reverse racism”, but fail to realise its “racism racism” that sees minorities erased from the media altogether.
People of colour are already counted out of period dramas – and much as I’d love a black Bennet sister, the small amount of blacks present in early 19th century England makes her omission understandable – but what explanation is there for only two ethnic minority families in what the BBC would like us to believe is a present day, bustling east end community? True Eastenders also include the Ghanaian women dressed in kente, buying plantain and yams at a market stall and the Kurdish family who run it.
I’m not paying my television license to play a game of spot the minority. Let’s hope the New Year brings some new faces, as I guarantee if the square had cast at least one interfering Nigerian aunt, they’d have identified Lucy Beale’s killer long before Christmas.Reuse content