A quick recap: When the under-represented actors do appear, they are often marginalized (literally in advertisement photos we examined), receiving much less screen time and narrower, two dimensional characters to portray. In an attempt to placate opposition — such as the NAACP opposition we examined — network dramas often reserve apparent positions of power to under-represented actors (judges on Law and Order, police chiefs on every police show you can think of) all the while minimizing the screen time and complextity of these characters. If anything, these characters are mere obstacles for the white male leads to hurdle. At the end of class, we wondered whether the tokenism we observed in tv dramas mirrors such marginalization in our society. That's why the following story about minority contracts in Chicago caught my eye:
$1 billion in contracts that were supposed to include projects of firms led by minority and women were circumvented so that they appeared to comply with federal guidelines even as they perpetuated the practice of "whites only" contracting.
Consider Republican National Chairman, Michael Steele, who is African-American. He is the party's first minority leader. Yet many see many see him as a figure-head, a cynical attempt to attract votes from people of color (since roughly 5 out of every 6 black voters are Democrats) without any real clout of his own.
At my old school, which was on the South side of Chicago, there was only one African American teacher on a faculty that was over 100 people strong. There were three people of color in the entire faculty. Women fair better in education circles — slightly more than half the faculty were women. How does New Trier do by this measure? Do you think television networks, city government projects and public schools have an obligation to represent the American society in which they reside?