David Bowie passed away on Jan. 10, 2016, but the impact of his life and career continues to reverberate through the music community, as well as with his dedicated fans. Bowie was not just a musician — he was a visionary, one who lived life on his own terms and inspired others to do the same. He was also an unabashed supporter and champion of diversity in the media, and one of his most outspoken moments has continued to go viral thanks to its strong moral message.
"Should it not be a challenge to try and make the media far more integrated, especially, of anything, in musical terms?"
In an iconic 1983 interview with MTV veejay Mark Goodman, Bowie took the network to task for the lack of videos they played from black artists. "Why is that?" Bowie calmly asked the anchor, who was visibly flustered while trying to explain that MTV was committed to playing videos that "not just New York and Los Angeles can appreciate," but also suburban Midwest communities "who would be scared to death by Prince . . . or a string of other black faces." Bowie's rebuttal, touching on young people of color being "part of America as well," is remarkably relevant today: "It does seem to be rampant through American media. Should it not be a challenge to try and make the media far more integrated, especially, of anything, in musical terms?"
We still see the same pleas to the entertainment industry over 30 years later, whether it's demanding more representation from people of color on TV and in movies or questioning the absence of minorities being nominated for major industry awards. It seems so easy for people to ignore these observations when they come from celebrities (a certain esteemed actress recently calling out a certain thin-skinned "politician" comes to mind). We rush to social media to demand that they "stick to their jobs" as entertainers — as if being a public figure means you can't have opinions — or dismiss their comments as trivial or petty because they don't exactly apply to us. What David Bowie's 1983 interview proves is that there will always, thankfully, be celebrities who will use their spotlight and privilege to call out inequality in their chosen industry. And yes, also thankfully, MTV does now play more music videos by people of color — at least between episodes of Teen Mom and Jersey Shore reruns, that is.