Black Survivor contestants are speaking up about their experience on the show and say that the series routinely forced them into racial stereotypes in its editing, while also cutting out the racial slurs and other forms of discrimination other contestants used against them. As Ramona Gray Amaro, the first Black woman to compete on the show, told NPR, Black contestants don’t have control of how the show’s production team uses footage of them, and the predominantly white production team tends to force the Black contestants into stereotypes. “”We can’t swim … we butt heads, we’re athletic, but maybe not smart and strategic,” she said. “I’m just saying, ‘Do right by us.’”
Amaro is among many Black Survivor contestants who have advocated for change on Survivor in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing reckoning about racism in American culture. In the case of Survivor, the contestants are asking for Survivor to, among other things, hire more people of color to work behind the scenes on the show, for it to enforce a zero tolerance policy for racist acts, to avoid creating storylines built around stereotypes, and for the show to publicly acknowledge and apologize for systemic racism in the franchise. As NPR notes, different groups of Black Survivor alumni have taken different approaches, including starting a petition for change on the show and sending a letter to CBS on Juneteenth to request a meeting. Twelve Black contestants also went on a podcast with white contestant Rob Cesternino to discuss their experience on the show. There, they said they felt that the production staff mishandled their stories, and edited out moments where white contestants used racial slurs around them. Survivor has also faced a reckoning over how it handled sexual harassment on a recent season. CBS hasn’t directly addressed the contestants concerns other than to say in a statement to NPR that it “condemns racism in all its forms” and that it is planning to schedule a meeting between members of the Black Survivor Alliance and representatives from the show.
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