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HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO HOLD HEARING EXAMINING THE LACK OF DIVERSITY IN MEDIA WITH A FOCUS ON HOLLYWOOD

Sep 24, 2020
Press Release
Lead by Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), with support from the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus

WASHINGTON — Today, September 24th, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Diversity in America: The Representation of People of Color in the Media examining the lack of diversity in the media, with a focus on the film industry. The hearing which was long sought by Leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus led by Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) will be broadcasted live on the House Judiciary Committee’s YouTube channel.

Chairman Castro recently published an op-ed in Variety on why Latino representation matters and the case for government intervention in the industry. This hearing would not be possible without the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. We hope this is the first hearing of many on the issue of diversity in media and entertainment.

Witnesses include:

  • Ms. Erika Alexander, Actor/Director/Producer and Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Color Farm Media
  • Mr. Daniel Dae Kim, Actor and Producer
  • Mr. Edward James Olmos, Actor and Producer
  • Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Associate Professor of Communication and Founder and Director, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California
  • Ms. Karyn A. Temple Esq. Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel, Motion Picture Association, Inc.
  • Ms. Joy Villa, Recording Artist, Actor, and Author
  • Mr. Jason Whitlock, Sports Journalist

The hearing can be watched live at 2:30 PM EST here.

“The media and Hollywood are the narrative-creating and image-defining institutions of American culture, yet for far too long Latinos have been hardly represented, and often depicted as stereotypes. This erasure has a high cost: today there is dangerous nexus between the racist political rhetoric and the images that people see on their screens of Latinos as criminals and as threats to society,” said Chairman Joaquin Castro, Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 

“Diversity and representation is not just about jobs, but also shapes the perception of our communities. It’s long past time We must take a hard look at the high levels of exclusion of the diverse Latino community, including Afro-Latinos, and other marginalized communities in the media and in Hollywood,” said Chairman Joaquin Castro “I appreciate Chairman Nadler and the House Judiciary Committee for holding this important hearing, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Ahead of the hearing, Tri-Caucus Chairs and Latino community leaders released the following statements before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Diversity in America: The Representation of People of Color in the Media.

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37):

“The United States of America is a melting pot representative of many cultures and traditions, yet one of its most powerful sectors “the media” does not fully reflect this. The lack of diversity in the media means that many of our best and brightest - our creatives - are left out of storytelling opportunities and their voices are rendered irrelevant in multicultural depictions. We owe it to ourselves to ensure that the media is truly reflective of our country and inclusive of those voices. This is the America the world should experience. Rep. Karen Bass, Chair, Congressional Black Caucus”

Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27):

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are the fastest growing racial demographic in our country, but you wouldn’t know that from watching TV or movies. For instance, from 20017-2017, just 4.8% of the on-screen characters in the top grossing 1,100 films were Asian and less than 1% were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. The numbers are just as dismal behind the scenes where a mere 3.1% of all directors were Asian. This white washing in both the media and Hollywood means fewer opportunities for actors and creators of color, and it also means fewer of our stories and experiences are reflected on screen. The result is that fewer young people can imagine themselves in these roles, and it reinforces the false impression that American culture is predominantly the white stories we see on screen – something particularly dangerous at a time of rising xenophobia and bigotry in our nation. The success of box office hits like ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and award-winning shows like ‘Killing Eve’ show there is an audience and demand for more diverse stories. That is why I joined with the chairs of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses to call for this hearing, and I’m grateful to Chairman Nadler for helping to shine a light on the need for greater diversity in media.”

Kenneth Romero, Executive Director, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators:

“Hollywood’s decades-long portrayal of Latinos, in both quality and numbers, has helped promote pejorative stereotypes and false perceptions, leading to demagoguery and even violence against us. Portrayals have improved recently and, although many producers are committed to fair representation, Hollywood is far from portraying an America where almost 1 in 5 is Latino, where we serve as astronauts and Supreme Court justices, even as we also do the jobs that nobody else wants. Congress is doing the right thing in keeping up the pressure. Our states, which bankroll many productions through incentives, must hold them to account. NHCSL and CHC are committed to vertically integrate policies that produce results.”

Felix Sanchez, National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts Chair and Co-founder:

“In September 1997, Jimmy Smits, Sonia Braga and Esai Morales, co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) testified before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) on the topic of Latino under-representation on Television and in film.24 years later, the House Judiciary Committee will take up the same subject and unfortunately much of the original concerns remain prevalent in Hollywood.”

Brenda Castillo, President and CEO, National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC):

"During this year's Latinx Heritage Month, the National Hispanic Media Coalition is committed to empowering Latinx to emerge from the shadows and take our seat at the decision-making table. If the saying "if you can see it, you can be it" rings true, it is no wonder why Latinx have been excluded for so long; media and film have depicted us as weak, criminal, evil, over-sexualized, and submissive since the beginning of motion pictures and television," said Brenda Victoria Castillo, President & CEO, National Hispanic Media Coalition. "Today, as our people face hate, discrimination, and injustice, we are witnessing the long-term effects of consistent dehumanization and devaluing of Latinx in the media. NHMC commends the House Committee on the Judiciary for taking this important step in remedying the representation crisis faced by popular media and entertainment. The future of our familias depend on what we do to show the next generation what they are capable of." 

Maria Lopez De Leon, President & CEO, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures:

“The systematic exclusion of U.S. Latinx voices in film and media stifles creativity and imagination and fails to convey that our many stories are American stories. The racial and social reckoning at this time makes equity and inclusion imperative to uplift the experiences and talent of Latinx communities", said Maria Lopez De Leon, President and CEO of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures.

Frank Aragon, DGA Director, Founder/CEO National Association of Hispanic Entertainment and Media Professionals:

"I'm inspired over the energy and focus on an issue that has plagued the American media throughout time. I'm hopeful changes are coming for Latinos, in front of and behind the camera, that will finally fade out negative stereotypes and reflect real history, beautiful culture, the struggles and successes of real Latino lives.  Thank you, Joaquin Castro, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, for your commitment and influence.  It has taken a Hollywood outsider and ardent leader to unite Latino organizations most consequential in this field.  Let's seize this moment.  Solid unity is fundamental to our success."

Rafael Agustín, Executive Director, Latino Film Institute:

"We cannot begin to heal as a community until we see ourselves represented in front and behind the cameras in Hollywood."

Mónica Ramírez, Alex Martínez Kondracke and Olga Segura (Co-Founders), The Latinx House:

We all know that politics is downstream from culture. Yet Hollywood continues to act as if it’s not. For too long entertainment companies have profited from the demonization our community. We are now watching the political consequences — family separation, children in cages and mass killings. Yet Hollywood continues to put out product such as “The Tax Collector” perpetuating the stereotypes which have real consequences for our lives; all the while neglecting to hire significant numbers of Latinos or promote authentic stories by and about us.”

Marcela Davison Avilés, Executive Producer/Writer, Chapultepec Group:

"I’m not interested in storytelling that sounds like a trope. I want it to sound as we feel, as we live, as we are, as we hope."

Nick Huff Barili (Co-Founder) and Albert Fernandez (Member), The Latinos In Media & Arts Coalition (LIMA):

“For far too long, stories from the Latino community have remained in the shadow of Hollywood. Although we are 1 out of 4 moviegoers, a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that Latinos had a speaking role in less than 5% of movies. Of these characters, nearly 50% were depicted as "criminals," which dehumanize us and create xenophobic sentiments towards our community. Studio, television, and streaming executives repeat diversity and inclusion talking points, but continue to depict our community in negative stereotypes, if at all. We applaud the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Chairman Joaquin Castro for shining a light on this injustice.” 

Marcella Ochoa, Filmmaker, CEO 8A Entertainment:

"The industry needs to be more inclusive and create films and television shows told by us that accurately represent our community and aren’t stereotypical to help change the narrative of how Latinos are perceived."

Maylen Calienes, Founder, Latino Filmmakers Network:

“Everyone watches TV & Film as a source of Entertainment, as a source of education. Representation of the Latino community & other underrepresented voices matter because that is how people identify us in the world. If the entertainment industry stereotypes us, society stereotypes us too. A full picture must be painted that shows our diverse community in all the positive ways we build our country and help it thrive.” 

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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.