NEW YORK, NY – Against a backdrop of increasing white nationalism, A&E network recently announced plans to air a documentary series that would have given Ku Klux Klan members an uninterrupted, televised pulpit from which to preach hate. The release of the show's trailer was immediately met with calls for cancellation. After reviewing the promotions and episodes the Color Of Change team identified and articulated to A&E an urgent concern that the show would work to not only normalize but in fact monetize racism and white supremacy, and turn KKK leaders into celebrities.
After a series of conversations the Color Of Change team had with the network, A&E announced a number of important fixes to the show. However, after discovering that some on-air participants were paid by third-party producers for their participation, Color Of Change immediately rescinded support of the show even with major changes and renewed calls for cancellation. On Saturday, A&E executives responded to news that talent was being paid by promptly cancelling the controversial docu-series.
Statement from Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change:
“Black communities know all too well how perpetuating stereotypes and hateful rhetoric can empower a racist and violent agenda. After reviewing the promotions and episodes and participating in substantive conversations with A&E executives, we were pleased to see the network attempt to address our concerns around the content, framing and imagery presented in the episodes as originally formatted.
However, one of the many conditions for Color Of Change’s involvement was that none of the on-air participants were being paid. It was the first commitment A&E made to us and we made it clear when we agreed to support content and marketing changes that we would withdraw if participants were paid. With this new information, canceling the show is the only acceptable decision.
On the eve of the inauguration of a president whose campaign was fueled by white supremacists, some of whom will work in his Administration, A&E has work to do to rebuild the damage caused, beyond town halls and PSAs. This is an opportunity to increase the diversity of creative talent, invest more deeply in narrative, content and stories that uplift communities that are often in the cross hairs of racist systems and structures, and center communities more broadly that are so often misrepresented and underrepresented by mainstream media.
Color Of Change recognizes the powerful role of media images. As a national racial justice organization committed to creating a less harmful and hostile world for Black people and all people through powerful campaigns that hold decision makers in corporations, media and government accountable -- we do this work while not taking big corporate money.”