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MTV Went Black and White on MLK Day to Help Launch ‘The Talk’ About Race Across the Country

To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, MTV ran 12 hours of its programming in black and white and featured special messages from prominent figures across the country to help launch an effective discussion about race in America.

Some viewers tuned in to MTV on Monday and immediately began beating the sides of their television screens wondering where all the color had gone.

It didn’t take long before it was clear that this was no technological malfunction.

MTV snatched the “distracting” color away so that viewers would be more focused on what people like Selma director Ava DuVernay, hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar, Oscar-nominated rapper Common, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Selma actor David Oyelowo had to say about race discussions in America.

This was all a part of a campaign that MTV deemed #TheTalk, which aimed to not only get people to discuss race in America but to go about such conversations the right way.

While many people have embraced the concept of being “color blind,” the network featured messages from stars who said “color blind” isn’t the way to go. Instead, the nation needs to be “color brave” as discussions of racism continue.

“To be color blind is not a thing I think that one should boast about,” DuVernay said during one of the special commercial breaks. “See color and celebrate it. See our differences and celebrate it. When someone says to me, ‘I’m color blind, I don’t see color,’ I’m thinking they’re missing out.”

While the monochrome pallet was an attempt to keep viewers focused on the message at hand, the network also said the sudden absence of color served as a “visual jolt” to viewers to let them know something special was happening.

“We want it to be a visual jolt that — when coupled with all of the great perspectives we’ve collected from leaders from Ava DuVernay to Rep. John Lewis — will encourage our audience to have tough conversations about race and examine all the ways that bias manifests itself in everyday life,” an MTV rep told Mic.

The idea to launch this campaign came from a 2014 survey that revealed the younger generation is all about embracing diversity but often doesn’t know how to go about discussing race.

According to the survey, nearly 80 percent of millennials believe “everyone has a responsibility” to end racial bias, but many also admitted they didn’t know how to go about doing that.

The network believes this is caused by a lack of bold and brave discussions about race at home.

Only 37 percent of the survey participants said they were brought up in “families that talked about race.”

That number was even lower among only white respondents.

MTV hopes the black-and-white campaign will help put an end to that.

“Think of the black-and-white programming as simply an entry point,” the rep added. “… Our hope is that, if our audience hears candid thoughts on how race shapes our experience as human beings from people they respect, that they’ll be encouraged to share and talk openly about race in their own lives.”


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