Oscar-nominee Edward James Olmos (Stand and Deliver) made an impassioned speech to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives during a virtual hearing Thursday afternoon.
“Diversity in America: The Representation of People of Color in the Media,” was held to explore the underrepresentation of minority groups in front of and behind the camera in the TV/film industry.
A diverse group of witnesses including actors Erika Alexander (Get Out) and Daniel Dae Kim (TV’s Lost) attended the hearing, which can be viewed in its entirety here. Olmos started with a video presentation about the Youth Cinema Project, a program he founded that introduces children to filmmaking.
“Self-esteem, self-respect and self-worth is what we’re talking about here today,” Olmos said. “The representation of people of color in the media… it still does not exist.”
Referring to the film medium as the “single most important artform that humans have ever created,” Olmos explained what he thinks is the biggest problem with the U.S. movie industry. “It has a habit of not allowing certain stories to be told,” he said. “They’re doing things that are actually stifling the diversity in this country.”
Later in the hearing, Olmos answered a question from a fellow witness about how to combat stereotypes in Hollywood.
“The stereotype is a fact,” Olmos said. “But if it’s the only thing that you see, then it’s completely gone to waste. How do we change that? We have to start our own studios and move forward creating our own product.”