Does Netflix truly believe in Black People?
It took me a while to process; I’m conflicted with Netflix’s Strong Black Lead campaign.
During the 2018 BET awards, Netflix aired a spot inspired by the iconic “A Great Day in Harlem” photo from 1958, featuring faves like Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, Lena Waithe and Justin Simien. The spot, “A Great Day in Hollywood” was met with excitement until that same week, communications executive Jonathan Friedland was fired due to his use of the “N-Word”. While I’m excited for all of the content Netflix is producing that represents the multi-dimensional reality of black people, it’s hard for me to believe he is the only one at Netflix with “low racial awareness and sensitivity,” as CEO Reed Hastings put it.
If we’ve learned anything this year is that content by and for black people is profitable and at the end of the day, Entertainment is a business. It’s all about the dollar.
With 125 million subscribers worldwide, and 56.71 million in the US according to Statista/CNN Money, Netflix has a strong case to cater to diverse viewers. Netflix knows they need to keep their audiences fulfilled, and they know the more shows targeting specific communities will retain subscribers. Netflix’ Strong Black Lead campaign ensures representation of Black stories in a positive light by enlisting producers in the likes of Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris, Spike Lee, and even The Obamas.
But while we’re excited by the content, I’m curious to know the percentage of black people working at Netflix in an executive role. Is Netflix’s boardroom representative of their Strong Black Lead campaign? Maya Watson Banks, Director of Brand and Editorial, is leading the campaign, but I’m actually curious to know how diverse Netflix is at a decision making level.
This matters because I want to see black people earn a portion of the profits, I want to see black people have a say on the type of shows produced and what producers deserve the eye of Netflix. I want to see black people crack the glass ceiling in Hollywood.