This Martin Luther King (MLK) Day, January 19, 2015, MTV is going black and white in an effort to raise awareness of and begin conversations about what can be an uncomfortable topic in some households, the topic of race. MTV will broadcast in black and white for 12 hours on MLK Day, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., and as a way to make a statement that the issue of race is an important one for families to talk about.
While a recent survey that MTV conducted concluded that 73 percent of people in the age range of 14 to 24 believe that there should be more open conversations about bias and race, according to the same survey, only 10 percent of people in that age group have had all that many open conversations about the topic. MTV would like to turn that around, with the hope that having constructive conversations about bias will eventually lead to less prejudice in our society.
Most people in the United States would agree with the host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, in a statement that he made last year, “that racism is bad.” He added that one of the areas where America has not done so well “is in teaching people what racism actually is.”
During the 12 hours that the music network goes black and white, celebrities like Jordin Sparks, Pete Wentz, Common, Big Sean, Rick Ross, actor David Oyelowo and Kendrick Lamar, will be talking about their own thoughts about the topic of race, and they will also be talking with activists and young people from around the United States and with politicians such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Cory Booker, and Congressman John Lewis about bias and race.
As Kendrick Lamar said during an interview with MTV News, his father dealt with racism “his whole life.” He added that, in the fight for civil rights, “We have legacies, people who died for it.”
According to MTV President Stephen Friedman, having MTV aired in black and white will be “visually a jolt.” He said that for America to have “a freer, more equal society, the best thing we can begin to do is talk about them.”
Besides promoting more open talks about bias and race with friends and family members, which MTV calls the #TheTalk initiative, the black and white programming is also meant to be a part of the music network’s Look Different campaign. It is a campaign designed to get young people discussing not only race issues, but also sexuality and gender issues. Following the death of Michael Brown, 18, MTV and the NAACP partnered together and created commercials about the campaign. MTV also worked with the Orange is the New Black star, Laverne Cox, in producing and airing a special called Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, showcasing the bias that transgender youths face on a daily basis.
MTV is both honoring the memory and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., by airing 12 hours of their programming on MLK Day, January 19, 2015, in black and white. By having celebrities talk about their own experiences and also with youth and politicians during the 12 hours, the music network hopes that more friends and family members will talk about racial issues and sexual and transgender ones, as well. Will such talks change the way Americans view bias and race, and lessen the amount of prejudice that still exists in the United States? Maybe not, but the network’s attempts to accomplish this goal are a step in the right direction.
Written By Douglas Cobb