MTV has announced that it will be going black and white for 12 hours during the Martin Luther King Day holiday in an effort to spark needed conversations on race and race relations across the country. According to a report in People Magazine, the plan is part of MTV’s initiative to encourage conversations about race related issues between family and friends to foster better understanding between all races and age groups. MTV President Stephen Friedman said in a statement, “…you know what, there are differences and if we are going to ever get to a freer, more equal society the best thing we can begin to do is talk about them.”
In a study commissioned by MTV and conducted by researcher Luke Hales on racial discrimination, it was found that the majority of those contacted believed that all people should have equal rights and be treated as equals yet only 22 percent of those aged 14-24 felt comfortable talking about the topic. Roughly 73 percent of those in the demographic believe that having more open, constructive conversations about bias will help people become less prejudiced, yet only 10 percent of those polled reported actually having those types of conversations.
Each of the commercial breaks during this 12-hour period will begin with a brief commentary from several noted celebrities and public officials about race relations in the United States. Participants will include musicians Kendrick Lamar, Jordin Sparks, Pete Wentz and Big Sean; actor David Oyelowo; Selma director Ava DuVernay; and public officials Rep. John Lewis, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Rand Paul. This is the first time that MTV will be seen in black and white in the 33 years since its inception.
MTV has long held the position of being the world’s most popular music channel. Launched in 1981 as a way to bring music videos to the masses, the music channel has been known to draw attention to social issues from time to time. Throughout American history, different groups have faced discrimination, segregation, voter suppression, and unequal treatment under the law. While Martin Luther King Day has historically focused on the plight of black Americans, Native Americans, Japanese Americans, Americans that identify as Muslim, and other immigrant groups have also faced discriminatory treatment within the shores of the United States. Hopefully, the conversations today can be another step towards inclusion and equality for all.