Erika Alexander Calls Out Hollywood Racism And The Fallacy That Black Actors Can’t Sell Movies

September 9, 2013 ‐ By

When our favorite “Living Single” girl Maxine, we mean Erika Alexander, came by the office, we not only asked the actress about the good old days of being on a number one Fox sitcom, we also dove into some of the more serious issues affecting black actors in Hollywood. Last April, Alexander penned her own version of “Mad Men,” which actually included black people, unlike the AMC version on television right now. And with that script, she wrote an accompanying blog post appropriately titled,  ”Why I Wrote A ‘Mad Men’ Episode With Negroes.” Knowing how invested Alexander is in the advancement of black people on the big and small screen, we decided to ask the seasoned talent why she thinks white executives are afraid to create non-stereotypical roles for black people. To that question she supplied a rather insightful answer:

“I think you fear what you don’t know. What you don’t understand. I think that African Americans have always been the dark ‘other.’ I think it scares people.

“I don’t try to just say it’s racism, which, by the way, at its very root it is racist, but I don’t think these people realize they are being racist. I think it’s ingrained within their subconscious mind. It’s also a set of practices and structures that are inherent to the Hollywood system…

“They say, well because he’s black he won’t sell in Europe. We can’t put him on a poster. That’ll turn people away. So they make it a money thing. Just saying that out loud is racist…

“That’s not only racist. it’s a lie. Black people helped create the foundations of American culture — rock n’ roll, hip-hop, blues, jazz, all of that. And to be denied, like our image won’t sell, is in fact wrong. We rule in music, we rule in athleticism, in terms of our image. Most of the people who play the big sports — Tiger Woods, Serena Williams — they’re black and they haven’t stopped the audiences from coming. So if you say that about the image, the moving image, that that person will not be able to satisfy the market, you are basically trading on racist undertones and notions and that needs to be examined with them.”

We couldn’t agree more. Check out our full interview with Alexander as she delves more into this idea of the black image not being marketable and the trouble with “black films.”

What do you think about what she said?

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  • ursanegro

    erika alexander is *pam*.

    i see pam before i see maxine. :)

  • Johnny Adams

    How about when they do have people color in the movies, there are more white than any others. Why cann’t we see just as many people of color as there is whites.

  • kelli

    Meanwhile every other group has created their own film industry- Nigerians, Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Ghanaians, etc.; many without the access to several generations of film experience in Hollywood and American entertainment industries that black Americans have had. No one is going to put aside their own to feature you- that’s for you and your own to do. The clamor of waiting to be approved of and included by others in their game reeks of insanity and desperation. I look forward to seeing great work (free of coonery, foolishness and ignorance) produced, financed and patronized by blacks in the states.

    • Regina

      But those are other countries that you listed that have of course created their own film industry. Why should Americans have to make up their own film industry in their own country? That seems a bit ridiculous and insane to me. If someone is fit for the job because they act well that should be all that matters. It should not matter the race of the person.

  • Terri

    I’m currently reading her script and I must say she’s done a great job! I can easily see the characters and setting in my head. Don walking to the station, his trenchcoat dripping wet while he waits for the train. Pete’s pitch in the office haha. I can’t believe so many haters are commenting. Erika admits to loving this show (like me) and being a black actress there’s no bigger disappointment than realizing the show isn’t even attempting to incorporate persons of color. It’s entertainment and she spent her time taking a great show to awesome heights. It could possibly be the first step for many to see that the addition of black characters isn’t hard and doesn’t take away from anything. If you don’t like the show then YOU don’t watch and don’t read her script, and don’t comment on this article if you have nothing positive to say about this situation. Ya’ll the only ones wasting time.

  • bigdede

    I guess people forgot about Soul Food. If Erika wants to do a show based in the early 60′s with Negroes should pen one and get an agent to help sell it to a cable network. Mad Men is based in the early 60′s in the corporate world. I don’t expect to see Black people just kicking it with them like the racial tension didn’t exist. It would be very unrealistic to have Don’s best friend a Black guy he goes out to drinks with. Personally I would love to see a cable show based on Love Jones. I have been waiting for a Black writer to pen that and find a cable network to air it. Or now that we have TVOne, Aspire and I would even include BET, pen a script and sell it to one of those networks. Why expect white execs to give you a chance, find your own chance. Look at Spike and other Black directors and writers. Do it yourself instead of sitting around complaining.

    • Lixer

      People pitch all the time….we just do not know it. I’ve known writers and developers who have pitched and things just get sit aside or thrown into a pile at networks. So its a lot of people out here trying, but now the web is the place to go and I have found some of the best quality of racially mixed (majority black cast) shows on youtube than I’ve ever seen on TV.

  • Fair and Balanced

    Her comments are very insightful its too bad that nothing will change,her logic can be applied to all of America as this is the way Blacks are seen by many in corporate America. May Caucasians believe that if we move into certain positions they may lose business or we are not seen as credible in those position which dooms a great deal of intelligent well educated Blacks to middle management with very few opportunities to move up.

  • tee

    Just like Maxine, Erika is keeping it real.

  • Unknown

    I faced the exact problem in my scriptwriting class. My teacher at the time gave me a low grade because he felt that my stories wouldn’t sell here in Europe because of the black characters….

  • Darling

    Very intelligent and well stated! We miss you. Even if it’s a webseries, come back to us Erika!

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