Black-ish Creator Kenya Barris: 'I Will Be So Happy When Diversity Is Not a Word'

Image via Getty
Image via Getty

In any discussions about diversity, people of color tend to bear the burden of the conversation when it should be the other way around. Black-ish creator and writer Kenya Barris was openly perturbed about this issue during a recent panel.

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Speaking on a Black-ish TCA panel on Thursday, Barris was asked to break down the show’s demographic in terms of viewership. Specifically, according to Deadline, “the reporter asked... if he could share data on how much of the series’ audience is black, and how that information shapes what the producers write for the show.”

As part of the question, the reporter also mentioned when Donald Trump called the title of the show racist and brought up the “uncertainty about how [the show] was going to be received by the African-American community.”

Barris responded with, “I will be so happy when diversity is not a word. I have the best job in the world and I’m constantly having to talk about diversity. I have the best actors. This is ridiculous.” Barris added that the demographic of the show is insignificant, stating, “I’m so tired of talking about diversity... It’s clouding the conversation.” And, “It doesn’t matter who is watching our show. The fact is that they’re watching it.”

The show’s co-star Tracee Ellis Ross then chimed in. From The Hollywood Reporter:

“Is that a question that you’ve asked other shows that are not predominantly of a certain color?” When the writer responded “not necessarily,” Ellis politely offered this to the room full of press: “I think sometimes that those questions continue the conversation in a direction that does not help the conversation.”

Being pestered with diversity questions, and knowing that you constantly will be, gets infuriating particularly when the conversation has only recently shifted toward asking white creators the same questions to demand accountability. At the panel, Barris instead focused on the fact that Black-ish is a show about a black family that—miraculously to some people—happens to be relatable to a wide audience. “Why is that important who watches the show? Why does it matter,” he said. “Why do we keep having this conversation? Why can’t we see the show for what it is?”

Culture Editor, Jezebel

DISCUSSION

HaHaYouFool
HaHaYouFool

This reminds me of a scene from my American History class in high school. It was a sophomore class, but all the foreign exchange students, who were classed as seniors, were required to take it, and I had all the exchange kids in my class. At the conclusion of a unit, my teacher would ask the kids what they though about the content from “the [German/Korean/Chilean/Turkish] perspective.” They usually mumbled some milquetoast shit about how we’re all really the same deep down, or whatever. Towards the end of the year, though, the German kid got fed up and said, “Please stop asking me that question. How the hell do I know what “the German perspective” is? I don’t know if such a thing even exists. I can tell you what *I* think about this, but I don’t speak for anybody else.” The teacher was taken aback and I don’t remember what he said in response, but he must have protested to some extent, because I remember the German kid said something like, “Well, you’d be pretty irritated, too, if someone kept asking you to explain the feelings of the entire American people.”