Coronation Street, the pride of the North, should perhaps not be so proud. It may beat EastEnders in the battle of storylines; however, it cannot contend when it comes to diversity. The soap which has taken readers through twists and turns (and into the canal a few times) has been on screen for over 60 years. However, it is not until now that the 7:30pm, ITV show will finally feature its first black family. Almost 30 years behind EastEnders, the question as to why leaves an uncanny resonance back to our discriminatory ‘white control rooms’ as Ammar Kalia tells The Guardian.
The Guardian also described the arrival of a black family in Coronation Street as ‘overdue’. It is overdue. But more so, troubling. The absence of racial diversity in Coronation Street lends itself to the overarching issues of our Windrush society. We are forced to see ethnic minorities as others, as they do not appear in our televised ideals of Britain. Manchester may be a vibrantly diverse city with almost 40% ethnic minorities; however, this was not transferred onto the screen. What is preserved in Corrie is the idealist ‘English’ view of Manchester which is inherently white. Although, this is not the Manchester of today. Excluding minorities from our screens is only a stone throw away from the rhetoric of Farage or Tommy Robinson who want to exclude them from the country as a whole.
The relaxed, and almost nonchalant attitude of producers has been picked up on Twitter. Producer Iain MacLeod spoke to The Guardian commenting that: ‘we did sort of feel it was overdue’ shortly followed by Lenny Henry tweeting in an exacerbated ‘wow’. It certainly seems a step in the crucially right direction. If a soap is to represent accurately the diaspora of people in a city or place, it is important that they do not exclude almost 40%. The media and television must not forget that they hold the reigns of societies beliefs. ITV have performative role in how race is presented and accepted in society. We need them to be embracing it, not fueling the racists and xenophobes who thrive off minority exclusion.
Images: The Independent