This picture shows why I argue for positive discrimination, as a casting policy the actor’s union Equity should be supporting – to redress the balance that everyone now accepts is true and has spawned Act For Change and Lenny Henry’s recent pronouncements etc. But even better, it shows why those who are threatened by positive discrimination, ie those who are privileged and already see over the fence (in the case of actors, those white actors with a certain agent), always argue that positive discrimination isn’t true equality and therefore illegal. It may well be illegal, but that doesn’t mean an actors’ trade union can’t stand for it in principle, as it could have done (but didn’t) when homosexuality was illegal.
I believe that Equity the union, by not promoting what they would call “positive discrimination for minorities”, is not doing its job nor serving its name honorably. I believe this happens because the union is 98% white (or whatever stupidly high number it is) and the elected Council is 100% white. Unless BAME members are elected to the Council this argument will never be made. Even if they are, it still isn’t certain to be made. At the moment I have made it a few times in committee meetings and it has never even been listened to at Council level.
I was incredulous to read a Diversity Objectives memo from the BBC – dated the year 2000 – at a meeting yesterday , and we all realised the situation has not changed one iota in half a generation. In the last 16 years, Equity has done almost nothing to drive change in this area. I think it should take a long hard look at itself and make sure that come 2032 it can look back with pride at how it helped manage to change the landscape. This can only happen by listening to and adopting some new ideas – then leading the way, not retroactively following the crowd.
It is like the recent Iraq bombings getting little to no coverage in the press; no-one in the key positions in journalism at the moment prioritise this story, because they have post Brexit, Chilcot Inquiry and football (and tennis!) to report on. But no one would deny it is massive story! In this example at least it is getting reported, thanks to having a person in a senior position like Jeremy Bowen. Equity doesn’t have this person. Unless someone of high status whose main issue is BAME representation is there making the arguments, then no one thinks to make them. In the same way as people forget to make arguments for disabled and LGBT and all minorities – unless a specific representative is in the room.
Equity believes it has shielded itself from criticism in this regard by having a protected seat for a BAME Councillor – but the facts speak for themselves, no such argument has ever been made, Equity’s history on acting for ethnic minorities is embarrassingly bad (the current leaflet doing the rounds listing Equity’s achievement s in this area is false – a wholly fictionalised re-writing of what stands Equity took; for instance on the Miss Saigon episode) and the current setup is simply not good enough to redress the imbalance, which in turn means Equity is not leading the way.
Polls for the new Equity Council elections closed last night and results will be forthcoming soon. I hope BAME members took my advice in the previous post and voted (in most cases for the first time ever) for BAME reps on Council. My own private interactions with actors tells me that more BAME actors than ever are leaving the union and even less are inclined to join.
If I am elected, which I doubt given my absence from the preferred “list”, I will argue again
for positive discrimination. Even though it may be illegal technically, I do not understand why the Union would not campaign for targets that amount to the same thing, which are not legally binding, but exactly as Sky have set themselves, for example.
Equity the union does not seem very equitable. The new President, whoever it turns out to be, could do a lot worse than to face this issue and make Equity for the first time pro-active in this area.
ps. a friend of mine, who brought this meme to my attention, points out that politically, people have different ideas of what is fair, and your ideas on fairness are, more or less, the determining factor in what makes you right or left wing. Some may even point out the meme overlooks the idea that the people in question have not paid for the spectacle they are watching, which may not be ideal as a meme for actors’ politics!
UPDATE! The results are in and it appears that me and my colleagues on the MEM committee, Daniel York and Somi de Souza did not get enough votes to get on to the general Council seats – but three other BAME actors did! Congratulations to them! Equity’s Council has gone from 3% BAME including the protected seat to 12%, which is far more representative – which alone was what I was campaigning for anyway!
A big thank you to the 600+ that did vote for me.
A poor turn out (as usual) from Equity’s 40,000+ members meant that the President was elected with only 2,300 votes! That is 5.5% of the membership! And some people have the gall to argue that the Tories do not have a democratic mandate!