The other day I watched this video of David Oyelowo on Being a Black Actor in Hollywood (Dec. 29, 2014), on Charlie Rose. It reminded me a lot of what I have observed in the community of black and other non-white science fiction and fantasy writers: they have to lift up themselves and each other and work harder to make and take advantage of opportunities because the white-dominated (96% white) publishers will not do it for them the way they will for white authors.
DO: One of the difficult things about being a black actor, or a black person in the public gaze right now is that everything you do has to endure a scrutiny that my white peers don't have to endure. I have to... You know, when I open doors, that door, the minute it's open, it starts shutting. Unless there are more people coming through to blow the hinges off.
DO: You know, Ava DuVernay is being celebrated as being the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe. That's wonderful. But, the truth of the matter is, if others don't come up behind her quite soon, she will be 'the one'. And I would say that Sidney Poitier for a long time was 'the one'. Denzel Washington is 'the one', and it becomes a placatory way for people to kind of relax, and go, "You know what? stop complaining, you've got 'the one'." And that's not reflection of society --
CR: And if you have one, then that means that there's no road blocks for all of them.
DO: Right, exactly. It's the same thing about having a black president. You know, this phrase, 'post-racial America' started to come in, which we're seeing is absolutely not true. So, even though I'm having a great time at the moment, I've pretty much worked out mathematically that I have to work twice as hard to get half as far as my white counterparts, which means that I have to work four times as hard to be on an equal footing. Now, I don't dislike that, because I do think that in order to do what I do, the harder you work, the better the results. But.
DO: The fact of the matter is, that even when you look at Ava right now, who is clearly and beautifully being celebrated for what she's been able to do with [Selma], she will not get the same raft of opportunities she would have done if she was a white male. And that's to do with the people who are the decision makers. The people who are the decision makers largely give opportunities to people who look like them. Because at the end of the day, especially in movies, we want to see ourselves. So what you see on the big screen tends to be reflective of the decision makers.
DO: I don't want to be one to complain about it; what this has shown me is that no one's going to tell my stories better than me. And that's been beautifully demonstrated by Ava, being excellent at what she does, in a two hundred thousand dollar movie that she did out of her own blood, sweat, and tears, and that enables me to take her name to path A and plan B, and it's indisputable that she should be given an opportunity, and then someone with Oprah's power comes along and further gives that a platform.
DO: We have to do it for ourselves, we can't rely on the studios. And if they come along, fantastic. If they don't: find the audience, be excellent, and you will be fine.