On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the representation of people of color in media. Stars Daniel Dae Kim, Joy Villa, Erika Alexander and Edward James Olmos attended as witnesses via Zoom to speak to their experience in the entertainment industry.
Kim not only spoke to the importance of diversity on screen for the American audience, but also discussed the commercial success of stories on communities of color. The “Hawaii Five-0” star shared how “Black Panther” has impacted his own career trajectory. “A film with African American leads, African American heroes rethinking the paradigm to encourage diversity is one of the primary reasons I created my own production company,” he said. “It’s my belief that the diversity that has made this country great can and should be reflected in our entertainment in front of and behind the camera.”
But Kim, an outspoken advocate for meaningful AAPI representation and storytelling, said he had initially declined the request to attend as a witness. The actor said he believes the need for a public dialogue on the topic only demonstrates the industry’s history of racism.
“I can’t wait for the day that we no longer have to have hearings like this about diversity,” he said. “I can’t wait for the day that people can say, ‘can you believe there was a time where people thought all Latino Americans were legal immigrants or that all Muslims are terrorists or that Black lives didn’t matter?'”
Alexander echoed Kim’s sentiment and emphasized the need for diversity across executive roles. Despite the success of several films centering on people of color, the “Get Out” star added there are many more “mediocre ones with white casts” that are produced, marketed and awarded every year.
“The hero we need is us, the people, and to address this complex issue will take a nation,” she said. “The government should incentivize companies to support and fund marginalized content creators, though artists and entertainers have been vilified as everything from radicals to destroying babies.”
Villa, who attended the hearing in-person, disagreed with the Academy’s updated guidelines which mandate diversity in the Oscars nomination process. “This is wrong. I’d like to be hired for the role, because I’m the best person for the job, not because my color or gender checks a mandated box,” she said.
The artist, who introduced herself as “a conservative actor,” spoke to the danger of so-called cancel culture and highlighted the importance of not only celebrating racial diversity but accepting differing political views.
“This hearing is meaningless and benign if it doesn’t also address the active canceling of diverse voices going on right now,” she said. “Yes, we need racial and ethnic diversity, and representation matters. But diversity is not only about color, gender or how able-bodied someone is or isn’t. We have protected clauses in our country under federal law for race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age sexuality and disability — it’s time to include political affiliations.”
Other witnesses included sports journalist Jason Whitlock, Dr. Stacy L. Smith and Karyn A. Temple, senior executive vice president and global general counsel at Motion Picture Association, Inc.
The hearing was led by Congressional Hispanic Caucus chair Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus chair Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27).
Watch the full session below.