Bystanders Beware
  • Friday, Aug. 7, 2020
Vernā Myers

During last month’s annual PROMAX conference, held virtually due to the pandemic, Vernā Myers, VP of inclusion strategy at Netflix, affirmed that in the quest for social justice, being a good person and condemning racism aren’t enough--rather, you have to be anti-racist in your beliefs, actions and policies. This mindset needs to be brought to bear on your personal beliefs and feelings, interpersonal behavior and relationships, on organizational and institutional levels, and our culture. Myers said it is incumbent upon us to “interrupt bias when you see it,” that this “is not the time to be a bystander,” that we must all move “from being neutral to being active.”

She called upon influential entertainment execs, marketers and promotions experts in the PROMAX community to expand their social and professional circles so that more people of different backgrounds and races are included. More people currently in your “out-group” should become part of your “in-group.” She suggested writing down the names of people you’ve hired or promoted over the past few years--how many are Black, are women, Black women, from underrepresented groups? If there are no or relatively few people of color, if the hires are white male-dominated, you are missing out on talent, different storytelling perspectives and opportunities.

Companies additionally need to explore their hiring biases. Many firms for example might first or exclusively seek out graduates from certain elite schools. Similarly hiring decision-makers might look to the schools they came from for whom they consider to be the most desirable job candidates. The major drawback in these approaches is that the system is inherently unfair when it comes to deciding who gets into these favored schools. Invariably people of color and the socioeconomically disadvantaged generally aren’t able to attend elite, preferred schools so you have to be open to other educational institutions and experiences.

Myers also recommended that entertainment companies hire a professional in diversity and inclusion--either on staff or as a consultant. Additionally, researching racism and the different forms it can take is important. “‘I didn’t know’ is not enough of an excuse,” she stressed.

Tangible action and commitment, the proverbial putting your money where your mouth is, are essential to advancing positive change. In this vein, Myers pointed with pride to Netflix’s recently announced $100 million investment in Black community banks and organizations, which at a grass-roots level can offer direct support to Black households and businesses.

Robert Goldrich is an editor with SHOOTonline

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