MLK Day: Macro’s Charles D. King On The Life & Legacy Of Dr. King In America 2022

·6 min read

Editors note: On the commemoration of what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 93rd birthday, multi-platform company Macro founder Charles D. King today takes a big picture look at an American icon and his influence in a guest column for Deadline.

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The significance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday in 2022 embodies a day of remembrance for one of our country’s and our world’s greatest leaders.

Cut down by an assassin’s bullets in 1968 at the age of just 39, he was a man who sacrificed his life and his family for all of us for the work that he did to shine a light on racial injustice, the fight for equality and frankly, to make our world and our country a better place.

So, the fact that we can honor his legacy and his work every year is a reminder of his incredible contribution to our society but also, too, as a reflection and a reminder as to the work that we must continue to all do together to move our communities and our society forward. I think that there are truly people that want to see racial and economic equality, but unfortunately, I know that there are many that are very happy seeing the status quo continue and maintaining their position at the expense of that equality.

Those elements of our society are fearful.

Instead of embracing change and embracing harmony of all communities together as Dr. King stressed in his life and by his own example, I think that’s there’s one group still trying to hold onto the power that they’ve been able to have for 400 years. But the reality is they’re grappling with the final days of that coming to an end. We shouldn’t be surprised they’re using all of the tactics and archaic laws at their disposal. As we have seen in recent days over the potential defeat of new federal voting laws, they are trying to have political parties at odds with one another, politicizing things that shouldn’t be politicized.

They do not want to see advancement for people of color and others outside their clan, so to speak. They’re happy being in a position where they have advantages that others haven’t. They’ve shown themselves pleased to have benefitted from the taking of resources from the indigenous community that was here before colonizers came, all the way through slavery and up to today. The raw truth is nearly 54 years after Dr. King was killed, there are entitled bastions of our society that still to this day seek to benefit from injustice. I believe that at their core they don’t want change to take place because they’re fearful. Fearful that change is going to impact them, their family, their kids and their grandkids’ livelihood.

The impact within certain communities from the pandemic is symbolic of economic inequality, both domestically and globally. The fact that people of color have over-indexed on those who end up hospitalized, and who end up dying in disproportionate numbers. It’s because of access, to having limited access, if any at all, to quality medical care.

It’s because of communities having disproportionately affected by chronic social, health and economics issues, a major theme of Dr. King’s activism in his last years.

Communities of color are losing their jobs first. The kids in communities with people of color and who are of lower socioeconomic positions went to schools where the institutions didn’t adapt in a strong way. They’re living in neighborhoods where they don’t have the best access to Wi-Fi and technology to be able to continue their education during this period. Unfortunately, years from now, we will learn the true consequences of how the situation affected these communities, and how it disproportionately wounded communities of color. That also plays into economic inequality, which is literally affecting people’s lives right now and who dies and who doesn’t.

As well as was speaking about the content of people’s character and who they are, today we shouldn’t neglect that Dr. King was also talking about economic empowerment. In the first quarter of the 21st century, that perspective and argument can focus on those who recognize the economic clout of a community. That this is a community that drives our overall domestic and global economy. In the case of our own industry, this is a culture that’s driving content globally.

The ones that are truly smart are the ones that recognize that by providing more opportunity makes good business sense. We all know the companies that have more diverse leadership and diverse ranks, and companies, both film and television companies, that have diverse slates tend to actually overperform and do better financially. The ones that are catering to a more diverse audience are able to build subscriber base for their streamers and cable channels, have higher ratings and to get more advertising on their broadcast networks.

Right now, we are at a place in our industry where there is more interest, excitement and opportunity for diverse storytellers and content creators, the showrunners, and artists than I’ve seen in the over 20+ years that I’ve been in our industry. But I think there’s still much more room for even a wider range of stories to be told. To tell those tales, we need to see an expansion of the ranks of those in the decision-making positions within the outlets, both streaming platforms, cable outlets, studios, and agencies. The brilliant Channing Dungey is an example of how there are more people from diverse perspectives in the executive ranks than ever before. But it is not enough,

On the other side of the equation, we’ve seen a number of incredible visionary people like Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay and others who’ve gotten their companies funded and financed. Those are positive steps forward in the culture and in the entertainment ecosystem where you’ve got artists with versatile fields. They are creating their own tables, and they’re getting financing and investment behind them to build their companies just like MACRO has been able to do so over the course of the last seven years.

We have sought to build our own table, and then evolve the process to supporting and inviting and bringing as many people to our table as possible. Another part of that is joining our table alongside other people’s tables that are likeminded whenever we can. That collaboration of intent and investment is when you can see real significant movement, both in terms of the quality of the work that’s being created, but also, frankly, in terms of the economic clout that we have to create real change.

With that perspective, I look at this year’s Martin Luther King Day as a day of not only reflection but also of thought and ponderance. The holiday is an opportunity to take stock to take steps to continue his legacy of seeking justice. In our industry and in our society, we must admit that while so much of his dream has been realized, there is also much of that dream and work that we all must continue to do.

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