‘12 Years A Slave’ Screenwriter John Ridley On Processing Yet Another Shocking Police Shooting & Protest Aftermath: Guest Column

The murder by Minneapolis police of George Floyd and the peaceful protests that followed sparked soul searching in Hollywood, including a Blackout Tuesday shutdown in solidarity to Black Lives Matter protests, and the enactment of diversity measures to hopefully create a more inclusive industry culture. How, then, to process this latest viral incident three months later, when Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, WI, is shot seven times by a police officer as he tries to get in his car, his three sons sitting in the backseat? Deadline asked Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley to offer some perspective for Hollywood.

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So, I have a question for everyone in our industry:

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What did you do today?

I don’t mean, what deal did you make, or what show did you get set up, or what talent did you land for your project.

In the wake of the attempted murder of Jacob Blake — the most recent in a string of assaults against Black people by those charged with protecting all people — what did you do today, in your space and in your way to help eradicate bias?

What did you do today to ensure that your hiring practices allow the best and brightest from every background an equal opportunity to succeed?

When NBA teams are choosing NOT to play in championship games because people still don’t get that Black Lives Matter, what did you actually do in your space to make sure that prejudice, and intolerance against anyone for any reason has no room to thrive?

What did you do today to help mentor the next generation of artists and artisans?

What did you do today to make sure the work we put before the world doesn’t traffic in racism, homophobia, or hatred against any faith?

As an NFL team stands accused of fostering a years-long culture of blatant misogyny, what did you do today to make sure everyone around you is safe from harassment?

What did you do today to make sure that everyone in your environment feels they have the right to respectfully express their opinions? To contribute? To make a difference?

What did you do today to make sure someone in your writers’ room felt empowered to tell you not only that your version of “black face” is offensive, but jokes about, say, Asian names are racist as well?

What did you do today to make sure everyone around you does not look like you, or think exactly like you, or has a lived experience similar to your own?

What did you do today beyond just saying to people “be kind?” Were you kind? Did you confront someone who was being unkind?

What did you do today to mandate change in your work place, because hoping for change clearly doesn’t get it done.

What did you do today more tangible than writing a check to a worthy cause?

What did you do today to help all of us see ourselves in each other?

What did you do today to make sure that the work we do, and the stories we tell are more reflective of the whole world in which we live?

Because…

I can tell you that whatever I did today, it wasn’t nearly enough.

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