Black 'Survivor' Contestants Say the Show Perpetuated Racist Stereotypes
"I just got boiled down to a simple trope of a lazy, unintelligent person," said contestant J'Tia Hart.
Amid the continuing Black Lives Matter movement, TV cast members are speaking out about racism on set and treatment of Black characters, including both Vanessa Morgan and Asha Bromfield on Riverdale and Nicole Beharie on Sleepy Hollow. Now, past contestants of the CBS reality TV show Survivor are speaking up about how the show fed into racial stereotypes, per an NPR report.
Ramona Gray Amaro, who appeared in the first season of Survivor, which aired in 2000, told NPR that scenes shot and edited early in the season framed her as lazy, thus perpetuating a harmful Black stereotype. In actuality, she said she was suffering from dehydration after she and her 16 fellow contestants were dropped in Borneo with minimal supplies.
"I became the lazy person, which is the furthest thing from the truth," Amaro said.
"That really upset me and it took me a long time to get over it," she added. "To realize, we signed our life away. They can do whatever they want to do."
And in watching the 40 seasons of Survivor that have followed hers, Amaro said that the show’s stereotyping of Black contestants has become blatantly obvious. "We can't swim...we butt heads, we're athletic, but maybe not smart and strategic," she told NPR. "I'm just saying, 'Do right by us.'”
J’Tia Hart, from 2014’s Survivor: Cagayan, echoed those sentiments about her own portrayal on the show.
During a June 24th episode Rob Cesternino’s podcast (who is also a former contestant), 12 Black Survivor alumni broke down the experience of being a minority on the show, which entailed walking on a lot of eggshells around the white crew and cast while dodging racial slurs online.
Amaro and several other Black Survivor contestants have come together to demand change from the show. Through a MoveOn.org petition, former contestants are asking the show to hire more people of color to work behind the scenes to improve portrayals, enforce a zero-tolerance policy for acts of racism, avoid non-white storylines that feed into racial stereotypes, and issue a public statement acknowledging systemic racism in the show’s 20-year history and plan a way to fix it.
Over its 40-season-run, Survivor has only seen four Black contestants take home the million-dollar prize, with most seasons only starring two or three Black contestants out of 16. Sign the petition here to get the ball rolling for change.