WHAT MATTERS IN A FAIR SOCIETY IS EQUAL OPPORTUNITY NOT EQUAL OUTCOME

1.0 Introduction

 At the beginning of each year, there are the major film industry awards; the Golden Globe Awards, the BAFTA and the Oscars. And then there is of course the Cannes Film Festival in May.

At these ceremonies virtue signalling white bourgeois narcissists who won an award and/or minority groups that missed out on an award call for equal or proportionate representation of minority groups in the production of movies. For example, at the recent BAFTA awards night, Joaquin Phoenix in his winning speech called out the film industry for lack of representation, recognition and even oppression of people of colour in films (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAh0FSfc4Ls). Even Prince William, as the President of BAFTA, spoke about the lack of diversity at the same award night (The Guardian, 6/2/2020). Furthermore, E. Yahr and S. Rao (Washington Post,10/2/2020) criticises the Oscar awards for not having enough people of colour and women directors nominated, despite the fact that the Best Movie and the Best Foreign Film Oscars went to a South Korean movie, Parasites. 

 Perhaps there is another explanation for why minority groups are not proportionately winning at these awards. It is possible that acting and movie making talents may not be proportionate to the underlying population profile of the USA. In other fields, such as basketball and American football, minority groups totally dominate. I, for example, have not seen or heard anybody complaining at the 2020 Super Ball final that there are not enough white players in NFL teams.

So, let’s think about equal opportunities not equal outcomes again.

2.How to create equal outcomes, but sadly not equal opportunities-The BAFTA entry condition

The BAFTA has come up with a ‘wonderful’ bureaucratic solution to address the diversity in film making by issuing a new set of diversity standards. In the future, films submitted for consideration of a BAFTA, film producers will have to fill out a form about the script’s meaningful representation of diversity and the percentage of key crew members that are from underrepresented groups.

This new BAFTA requirements are precisely the wrong solution to a problem which may or may not exist. It does not address the question of equal opportunity rather it prescribes equal outcome through a ‘box ticking ‘exercise. A more talented person potentially could be excluded in a movie production due to his/her ethnicity to meet the ‘minority representation’ requirement. How ridiculous these rules are best illustrated by different fields of sports, where the best players play for the best teams regardless of their ethnic background.

3.The wonderful world of sport where equal opportunities prevail, but not equal outcome-and rightly so

As a child growing up in Central Europe, I always wanted to be a professional basketball player in the US National Basketball League (NBL). I played as a guard in my high school team, but by the time I got to University nobody wanted to play with me. I stopped growing at 165cm. I accepted it, and became a well know Finance Professor instead. My income does not even come close to the worst paid NBL player, but I still love the sport and I am happy and content with my life.

 In 2015, according to R. Lapchick, 74.4 % of basketball players were African American, 23.3% were Whites and only 1.8% were Latinos. The statistics are similar in the NFL, where 68% of players were African American, 28%   were Whites and 4% were mixed race (Heavycom, NFL Census). On the other hand, the Major Baseball League had only 6.7% African Americans players, 27.4% Latino players, the rest of the players were White (M. Armour and D.R Lewitt, 2017). None of these statistics reflect the population profile of the USA and nobody seems to be complaining.

So, what is so different about the film industry as opposed to sports. In my mind, absolutely nothing as equal opportunity is available to youngsters in both fields. Anybody can act at high school, make a movie with a handheld digital camera or on a mobile phone, pick up a baseball bat or play basketball in local parks. The only difference is in the outcome, and that should be celebrated not discouraged. The best actors win awards regardless of their race as they did in the past including African Americans (for example, Sydney Portier, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker), and the best basketball players play for the best teams. Furthermore, one cannot even blame the film producers or basketball team owners for lack of diversity. They tend to be white people in both fields, although there are some exceptions like Michael Jordan, who owns the Charlotte Hornets basketball team (he may have recently sold part of it).

Nor is there any discrimination when it comes to compensating the best talent. According to GQ (October, 2019), the three highest paid basketball players are all African Americans (Lebron James, S. Curry and K. Durant), and one out of the three highest paid male actors has black Canadian heritage (Dwayne Johnson aka ‘The Rock’). Interestingly, all three basketball players earn more (with the inclusion of their endorsements) than the three best paid actors, and their annual earnings are in the neighbourhood of 100 million dollars.

4. Think about the silly idea of equal representation

 As a thought experiment, do you think we should introduce equal representation in sport?

Should I be able to play in the NBL with the big guys?

I could go on with these silly questions, but I think I have made my point. We all have different physical and mental attributes which enable us to prevail in a given field. If there are barriers to entry to a field, then by all means fight it. But do not wish for equal outcomes for all at the expense of quality.

I thought these issues have been addressed a few decades ago and many barriers to entry have been removed in most fields. However, if there are still institutional barriers to entry in any fields, those barriers should be removed. The champions of equal outcome have an obligation to identify and fight for the removal of those barriers. Equal outcome cannot be demanded on the basis of minority status alone regardless of talent or ability.  Minority representation should never prevail over excellence in any fields of society including movie making and sports.

5.Key takeaways

 Equal opportunity is not the same as equal outcome.

Minority groups can not demand equal outcome on the basis their minority status alone regardless of their talent or their effort.

The more we can achieve equal opportunity for all, the more likely individuals with their unique intellectual and physical attributes will find the best place for themselves in society.

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