Rumor and speculation on all things personal shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to Hollywood power couple Will and Jada Smith. Recent headlines had the couple headed for divorce court. Instead of reading about a marital split, many were surprised to learn the dynamic duo just sold a multi-camera comedy pilot to ABC about a charismatic Dominican-American from Washington Heights, who tries to please his traditional immigrant father while creating a life that reflects his vision of the American Dream.
Despite the achievement, doubt continues to swirl — not necessarily about them, but this time the rumblings are focused on the untitled pilot’s premise as it centers around a Latino family, and not one that is African-American.
I have to point out the grumbling is a bit premature since the show is only at the pilot stage and hasn’t been picked up to series.
Nonetheless, naysayers point to the fact there are very few broadcast shows with predominantly African-American casts, crew, storylines or creatives. All true. Therefore, one can make the correlation it seems curious the Smiths decided their next small screen business decision would focus on a brown TV family instead of a black one.
I say smart move.
Here’s why — when’s the last time you saw a predominantly Latino family series on prime-time? What’s the fastest growing segment of the population per the U.S. Census? And, what powerful demographic are advertisers earmarking even bigger ad budgets for? Hispanics. Rinse and repeat. Latinos.
Lest we forget, there would be no television without advertising. It exists to sell you the latest energy efficient blender. And the growing population that is Latino likes to buy consumer goods. That makes advertising companies and their stockholders very happy. Any TV producer worth his or her salt knows this and should create entertainment properties with the widest, most diverse cast possible to connect with all demographics, but in case you have to pick one, Latinos are a good bet.
That’s not to say African-Americans should be discounted. On the contrary. African-Americans and some Latino cultures share a very important common denominator — ancestry.
Per a September 2011 Gannett company article about the Purdue Latino Cultural Center, “just like the United States, countries in Latin America have a long history that connects to Africa due to the migrations of African people to South America, Central America and the Caribbean during the transatlantic slave trade from the 16th through the 19th centuries.”
The Afro-Latino connection, that shared history is often forgotten.
The article further states, ”(On) the Atlantic board of Latin America, there’s a lot of African influence, in the Caribbean as well, there’s a lot of presence in the cultures. It’s really evident in Puerto Rican and Cuban culture.
Also, in Honduras there is a black community there that links back to West Africa. It’s definitely present, but it’s not always brought to the forefront.” Further, “Latinos cannot be identified as a single race but rather as an ethnicity with races and cultures that range from the indigenous to the racially mixed.”
The Afro-Latino connection, however, has been difficult for some to champion. Perceived slights and differences have often pitted these groups against each other.
In 2007, New America Media put together a poll aptly entitled “Deep Divisions, Shared Destiny – A Poll of Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans on Race Relations,” and Sergio Bendixen (of Bendixen & Associates) — expert on Hispanic and multilingual polling, revealed the information gathered reaffirmed “while race relations between ethnic groups grab the headlines, there are also serious racial problems between minority groups in America.
Blacks feel left out of the American Dream, that they’re being displaced by newcomers. Each group buys into the negative stereotypes about the other. What’s clear is the need to dissolve this friction. The poll results show that the overwhelming majority of ethnic Americans want that positive outcome.”
Further, Sandra Close of New America Media said the poll found “a shared appreciation” for each group’s cultural and political contributions. “Hispanics and Asians recognize that African Americans led the fight for civil rights and against discrimination, forging a better future for the other groups.” Adding, “Asian Americans and African-Americans say Hispanic culture has enriched the quality of their lives. African-Americans and Hispanics perceive Asian Americans as role models when it comes to family and educational values.”
There is common ground. And if the Smiths continue to push the color barrier, confound critics and get this show on the air, we all benefit by seeing how America maintains her rich, layered history of being a country full of stories about every man, and every family. Stay tuned.