Remember back in June, when all the studios — including Disney/Marvel, Warner Bros. and Netflix — published statements about how they stood with Black people and would not stand for racism? Naturally, it was all garbage because corporations just want to look good and not saying anything at all at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement meant that their silence was complicity. But it still is and always will be if corporate practices of racial discrimination don’t change. And they haven’t.
Over on Twitter, Dear White People’s Jeremy Tardy (who played Rashid Bakr) confirmed that he won’t be back for the fourth and final season. The actor pretty much dragged both Netflix and Lionsgate, which produces the streaming series, for the companies’ racial discrimination practices, inequality, and pay discrepancies. Tardy alleged that he and his team entered into negotiations with Netflix and Lionsgate after being asked to return for several episodes in Season 4.
His team submitted a counteroffer that was ultimately rejected and the negotiations were basically shut down. Take it or leave it is what they were saying in no uncertain terms. However, Tardy’s white co-star (another recurring actor on Dear White People who remained unnamed), was transparent about the outcome of their negotiating (which they were allowed to make while Tardy was not).
Long story short, Netflix and Lionsgate lowballed Tardy and several other recurring Black cast members but allowed a white actor to negotiate and ultimately succeed in obtaining their requested pay. Tardy rightfully called out Netflix and Lionsgate for their shady dealings.
“These companies have recently released statements and even donations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. I am calling out their shameful practices of discrimination and racial inequality with regard to how they have historically undervalued and lowballed people of color. Politically correct lip service and symbolic gestures do not absolve you of the daily responsibility of doing business in a fair and equitable manner.”
Drag them, Tardy! Drag them all! A spokesperson for Lionsgate, of course, wants us to know that this whole thing was “a purely financial negotiation regarding deal terms.” and that the studio is committed to “equal treatment” for all regardless of race, gender, etc. etc. etc. Sure, let’s go with that. Nothing is purely financial if there’s bias and there’s no reason for a white actor to negotiate successfully while Black actors are left out. It sure sounds like that whole “you should be grateful we gave you a job” narrative and that’s fishy.
Of course, this is sadly not the first time Netflix has done this either. Last year, the cast of On My Block asked for a pay increase ahead of Season 3 (which you can read our review of here). They wanted to be paid around the same amount as the supporting cast of 13 Reasons Why (the cast of which is mostly white and who successfully renegotiated their contracts). It’s more than fair. I mean, not only is On My Block a good show but it also drives a lot of online conversation. It was also named one of Netflix’s most-binged shows in 2018. Not that any POC cast needs to justify why they deserve a pay raise or anything, but they DID, in fact, deserve a pay raise.
However, Netflix didn’t immediately say yes and it was over a month before the cast sealed the deal (that we know of anyway). To have canceled the show would’ve looked bad on the streamer’s part, but the fact that they were lowballed to begin with when the supporting cast members of 13 Reasons Why got paid wayyyy more is ridiculous and speaks to the racial discrimination in pay practices. No company can say they stand with the BIPOC community if they’re going to continue about business as usual.
Netflix (though it’s not the only one) has also marketed its POC-fronted shows a lot less. Hell, I didn’t even hear of On My Block through trailers or Twitter or my Netflix algorithm. It was through online chatter. Without it, this show would’ve gone completely under my radar and that would’ve been a damn shame. Netflix’s continuing discrimination is even more enraging because the streamer had the audacity to include a Black Lives Matter tab, too (which just so happens to include Dear White People), but they refuse to pay their Black actors the same as their white counterparts???
Both Dear White People and On My Block speak to the inequalities and racism that the Black and Latinx communities face. Dear White People was discussing issues of systemic racism, protesting, and Blackface long before other shows. So to have that racial discrimination be practiced by the very same companies producing and distributing the show is disheartening and indicative of corporate pandering (we all know those statements were to save face), our racist society, and how these corporate executives have learned absolutely nothing.
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