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Systemic Racism in the Theatre Industry

Systemic racism has been a prevalent topic upon recent months as an effect of the Black Lives Matter movement. Countless individuals worldwide are becoming aware of how systemic racism affects African Americans specifically in everyday life. Whether it be in the corporate hierarchy, roles in politics, and even gender wage gaps there has been a noticeable form of discrimination. However, in this article, we will be diving into the systemic racism African Americans face within the Theatre industry.

Before anything, we need to understand what systemic racism is. According to NAACP President Derrick Johnson, systemic racism regarding African Americans is “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage African Americans." In total, it's a deliberate system created over decades to purposely place African Americans at a disadvantage. This system has changed over time to give a facade of equality, however, the effects it has brought to society as a whole seems irreversible at times.

There have been many counts of evidence that prove systemic racism has played a deliberate effect on the theatre industry for African Americans. (all facts are provided by ( @Bipoc_Directorscollective, Backstage, Quartz.)

For example-

  • Only 9 Broadway/Tony awards have gone to Black creative artists in the principal creative categories.-Backstage

  • Stephen C. Byrd and Alia Jones Harvey are the only two Black lead producers working on Broadway.- Backstage

  • According to “The Demographics of the Broadway Audience” by BLRD gathered data that 78.5% of actors on Broadway are white(since 2015) -Quartz

  • The last Black playwright to win an award was 33 years ago -@BIPOC_DIRECTORSCOLLECTIVE, Backstage

These are just some of the many apparent cases that prove there is a definite effect systemic racism is still placing on the Theatre Industry modern day.

African Americans have faced an apparent form of discrimination on Broadway. Systemic racism is real and has heavily affected all forms of creative artists in the performing arts from technical producers, to Broadway actors and dancers. A plethora of POC and white broadway employees have spoken out regarding this issue demanding action. Through advocating and education, these statistics can change.

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Leah Gonzalez
Leah Gonzalez
Aug 22, 2020

This is such an important topic. Advocating and educating will make a difference. Thanks for sharing.

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