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Sony exec seeks ‘fearless’ racism response

US non-profit organisation Women In Animation (WIA) has shared a letter from the exec VP of creative at Sony Pictures Animation advising the industry how to react to the anti-racism protests across the country.

Karen Rupert Toliver

Protests have been ongoing in the US, and now in other countries, following the death of African American man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police last week.

Floyd died after police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while attempting to arrest him.

WIA president Marge Dean asked Karen Rupert Toliver, the Oscar-winning producer of animated short Hair Love and a member of the WIA advisory committee, to share her thoughts on the situation.

Rupert Toliver’s letter, which argues that anyone in the industry who isn’t participating in trying to make change is complicit in maintaining the status quo, is available to read in full here.

In the letter, Rupert Toliver says news coverage focusing on damage to property during the protests misses the point, adding that, in the past, “sometimes peaceful protests did not move the needle enough.”

Referring to the Civil Rights movement, Rupert Toliver said change “requires people to get out of their comfort zones.”

“Part of our job in entertainment is to help throw focus on that painful reality,” Rupert Toliver wrote. “We already know that our industry needs to be more diverse and representative. We must keep pushing. It’s urgent.

“But also advocating for diverse storytelling has a huge part to play. And in this area we are also not doing nearly enough. It’s not just about including Black characters in our stories. We need to influence hearts and minds to think differently. To remind us that we are all connected, that other people’s hurt is everyone’s hurt.

“We need to encourage people to not look away from uncomfortable things, but instead breathe into that discomfort. We need to use all the resources at our disposal to help move this cause forward. And one powerful resource is fearless storytelling.”

The letter continued: “For myself and my children and my community, I need to decide how to do more than be sad, angry, and hurt because here’s the harsh truth about our personal responsibility: if you aren’t participating in trying to make change, if you are silent, you are complicit in maintaining the status quo.

“And the status quo continues to target and kill black men and decimate the black community. And this cause needs white voices to join the black community. Do something and do it now. Find a way: make leaders accountable; advocate for policy changes; donate money; tutor; get involved in black community organisations. Figure it out. Do it now. Force yourself out of your bubble. And stay in touch with this issue so it doesn’t die, again, in the next news cycle.”

Dean added: “WIA is committed to seeing that permanent change happens this time; even if it’s just in our small part of the world, the animation industry. (Which I say facetiously, knowing that animation is hugely influential.)”

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