As Black former Survivor contestants speak out demanding the long-running reality TV show become more diverse and inclusive, contestants continue sharing their experiences on the show, with some claiming ‘Survivor’ reinforced harmful racial stereotypes.
In a statement to People last week, Lori Dellicolli, Vice President of CBS Entertainment Communications spoke out against racism, while confirming the network’s plan to meet with the Black Survivors Alliance and representatives from the show to have a discussion.
“CBS condemns racism in all its forms and we are committed to inclusive and safe production environments,” the statement claims. “In the spirit of partnership with former contestants, we have responded to the request from the Black Survivor Alliance to meet with representatives from the show and CBS and we’re working together to set a time for this discussion.”
Over the past few weeks, former contestants have been talking about their experiences on ‘Survivor,’ detailing why they felt the show’s editing often helped reinforce racial stereotypes, while also possibly playing a part in getting them voted out of the game.
According to People, Season 1 contestant Ramona Gray Amaro believes the show edited her in a way that made her appear “lazy.”
“I became the lazy person,” the chemist said of footage shown of her lying around her team’s campsite during the competition, when in reality, Ramona said she was suffering from dehydration.
Despite eventually regaining her strength, Ramona said she felt the damage to her reputation had already been done, as she was voted off the island after 12 days.
“That really upset me and it took me a long time to get over it,” she said, adding that the contract contestants must sign plays a part as well.
“ … To realize, we signed our life away. They can do whatever they want to do.”
Ramona’s concerns are not just for her own treatment on ‘Survivor,’ but also the treatment of other Black contestants on the show, many of whom she believes also were stereotyped. She went on to list some of the stereotypical traits and behaviors she felt Black ‘Survivor’ contestants were assigned.
“We can’t swim … we butt heads, we’re athletic, but maybe not smart and strategic,” she . “I’m just saying, ‘Do right by us.’”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Survivor: Cagayan’s J’Tia Hart, who believes she, too, was “boiled down to a simple trope of a lazy, unintelligent person.” Former contestant Brice Izyah Johnston, who competed alongside J’Tia, said he felt he was stereotyped as a flamboyant Black gay man during his time on the show.
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PETITION ➡️ http://rb.gy/jjtgfw ⬅️ . . African Americans makeup: . .💥 13% of Survivor contestants .💥 10% of Best Survivor Contestants .💥 50% of Worst Survivor Contestants . The Stories of Black Survivor Stories are disproportionately negative! . 🦸🏽♀️We are heroes and main characters in real life 🦸🏿 🦹🏾♀️Why are we only villians and sidekicks on television🦹🏿. . Why does representation in pop culture matter?📺🎬🎤 Portrayals of minorities in the media not only affect how others see them, but it affects how they see themselves! #tnt #TribesandTribulations #SoulSurvivors #blacklivesmatter #representationmatters #youcantbewhatyoucantsee #antiracism
Ramona, Brice and other Black former ‘Survivor’ contestants detailed their experiences during a recent live panel “Tribes and Tribulations: A Conversation on the African-American Reality Television Experience,” hosted on J’Tia’s website and moderated by writer Nicole Symmonds.
Last month, J’Tia, who is also head of The Soul Survivors Organization, created an online petition for “Anti-Racism Action by Survivor Entertainment Group,” addressed to the network, production company and executive producers of the show, including show host Jeff Probst.
“The executive producers of one of the most popular and influential reality television shows in history should commit to featuring Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in their full breadth and depth,” the petition reads. “‘Survivor’ should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our society – both in front of and behind the camera.”
The petition, which has been promoted by other ‘Soul Survivors’ on social media, outlines 10 actions for show producers to take to make ‘Survivor’ a more diverse and inclusive show.
When asked about the current push for racial justice and inclusion, Jeff Probst recently told The Hollywood Reporter there will be changes made when it comes to casting future ‘Survivor’ seasons.
“The entire culture is in a beautiful upheaval and our job is to respond to it to make sure that ‘Survivor’ continues to reflect our culture and our behavior and how we’re interacting with each other,” Jeff said. “Everything that’s happening is going to inform the future of ’Survivor.’”
He stated that the show will evolve to fit with the changing times.
“There are all kinds of things happening in the world right now — certainly they impact the physical aspects of production, but they’re also going to change the tone and subject matter of a lot of shows. I think ‘Survivor’s going to be one of those shows.” he told the site.
(Photos: CBS; Instagram; YouTube; MoveOn.org)