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Posted under: Television Culture

Donald Glover’s Take On Working With White Gatekeepers In Hollywood Is A Message All Black Creatives Need To Hear

The "Atlanta" actor's recent interview with the New Yorker is revealing the truth about working in the entertainment industry.

Before actor Donald Glover became a household name, he was just a talented kid of a post office worker and a daycare provider in Stone Mountain, Georgia, just east of Atlanta. 

The rapper, TV showrunner, actor, and comedian has become one of the most important black men in Hollywood due to his multi-hyphenate talent and his ability to create his own path. A recent New Yorker profile on Glover has revealed that even with his immense talent, he had to overcome the stereotypes of being the "black guy" in Hollywood. 

Conceived in 2013, Glover's popular TV show Atlanta has become the blackest show on TV because it portrays black people in a natural and unfiltered way that other shows have failed to do previously. The network originally did not want Glover to use "nigga" in the show's pilot, advising that he should avoid it all together.  

“No black people talk to each other like that, or need to. It’s all for white people,” FX advised. According to the New Yorker, the network’s compromise position was that only a white character who says “Really, nigga?” and “You know how niggas out here are” could be used. Glover recalled his frustration with the network by this decision.

“I’m black, making a very black show, and they’re telling me I can’t use the N-word," he exclaimed. "Only in a world run by white people would that happen.”

But he realized that American society does not want genuine blackness. White supremacy makes blackness appear differently than it should. He said that blackness is always being viewed through whiteness. 

“If ‘Atlanta’ was made just for black people, it would be a very different show. But I can’t even begin to tell you how, because blackness is always seen through a lens of whiteness — the lens of what white people can profit from at that moment," Glover told the interviewer. "That hasn’t changed through slavery and Jim Crow and civil-rights marches and housing laws and ‘We’ll shoot you.’ Whiteness is equally liquid, but you get to decide your narrative.”

Starting out as a writer on the hit NBC sitcom 30 Rock was his first break after his days at New York University. When co-star Zazie Beetz made a comment about being used as a diversity prop in her previous roles, Glover began to question his first job and his place in the majority white writers' room.

“I wondered, Am I being hired just because I’m black?” Tina Fey, the show’s creator and star, told the New Yorker that the answer was in large part yes; she admired Glover’s talent but hired him because funds from NBC’s Diversity Initiative “made him free.”

As a star on the hit show Community, Glover and legend Chevy Chase were not on the best terms. Rumor has it Chase tried to get him fired. Showrunner Dan Harmon ultimately revealed that Chase felt threatened by him.

“I just saw Chevy as fighting time — a true artist has to be OK with his reign being over. I can’t help him if he’s thrashing in the water. But I know there’s a human in there somewhere — he’s almost too human,” he said. 

Glover's career as an award-winning artist in multiple fields has made him see the world a little more clearly. To him, white supremacy has made white people blind and apathetic to black pain. 

“If I gave a dog an iPhone, it couldn’t use it, because a dog doesn’t have an opposable thumb—that’s true of everything made for white people. I can say there’s a problem, you can all laugh at it, but it has to be a group of you guys who change it, because it was made by and for you," he said. “In a weird way, I feel bad for white people. You guys have put yourselves in the adult position, but you refuse to see it — you’re so lazy. Paying reparations is realistic, but you just don’t want to do it, so you don’t let yourself see how things are. So, yeah, I can’t help you anymore.”

There's no stopping Glover. He will be starring in Solo, the live-action remake of The Lion King and we can see him this week when Atlanta: Robbin' Season returns on FX.

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Atlanta-based creative, dope photographer, journalist and lover of the wing ding.