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Gabrielle Union talks racism: ‘We can’t put a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound’

Gabrielle Union
Gabrielle Union appeared on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah to discuss her experiences on “America’s Got Talent.”
(Willy Sanjuan / Invision / Associated Press)

Gabrielle Union is continuing to use her platform to speak out on racism in Hollywood and beyond.

Speaking to Trevor Noah on Tuesday night’s “The Daily Show,” the producer and actress sounded off on recent watershed events including Amy Cooper’s “Karen” meltdown in New York City and the police killing of George Floyd, as well as her firsthand experiences with alleged discrimination on “America’s Got Talent.”

“The Amy Cooper/Central Park situation happened on the same day as George Floyd lost his life, and you realize how far anti-Blackness and the weaponization of whiteness — how far it can go,” Union said. “We saw what happened in that park that day. Amy Cooper did not believe that the rules and laws applied to her, and she believed that, in her wrongness, she would be able to weaponize the police against the Black man — she just happened to choose the wrong Black man. And in that same vein, you see how anti-Blackness and profiling led to George Floyd’s death.”

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The “L.A.'s Finest” star reflected on the alleged mistreatment she endured as a judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Earlier this month, Union filed a discrimination complaint in her ongoing battle with NBC, “AGT” producers and Simon Cowell, claiming that the network retaliated against her when she reported racism and other toxic behavior on set.

“I thought it was the easiest show. How hard is it to ... watch jugglers? That’s what I thought I signed up for,” Union said. “Day one, Simon Cowell is smoking cigarettes inside. I’ve worked a long time. I’ve worked with all kinds of people. I’ve never experienced that. When your boss — the person who has the ability to determine who gets opportunities and who doesn’t — doesn’t believe that the law applies to him or the rules ... that’s day one. ...

“What message do you think that sends to anyone that has an issue with the very real racism and the lack of accountability? And it goes on and on and on.”

Gabrielle Union has filed a discrimination complaint against NBC for allegedly trying to “silence” her when she reported racist behavior on “America’s Got Talent.”

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She then directed her criticism at the “independent” investigation NBC launched into her allegations after she was dismissed from the show — a probe which, the network claims, “demonstrated an overall culture of diversity” on the competition program.

“Silly me, I thought ‘independent’ was independent. But when NBC and [producers] Fremantle and Syco pay for that investigation, they control it,” she said. “They turn over what they believe to be inflammatory things, or things that are not advantageous to me ... to the head of NBC, Paul Telegdy, who then ... threatens my agents: ‘Gabrielle better watch who she calls a racist.’ In the middle of an investigation about racism and discrimination? This is what’s happening from the top of the company.”

NBC did not immediately respond Wednesday to The Times’ request for comment.

When asked what Hollywood can do to spur real change, Union told Noah, “There has to be an increase in representation across the board from the top to the bottom,” especially in decision-making roles.

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“We have to be able to be OK with change that doesn’t always benefit us,” she said. “Some people believe that ... the only way to lead is to center yourself in every argument. But what I’m learning throughout this whole process is, sometimes the best way to lead is to get out of the way and make room for someone else. We have to dismantle the whole thing. We can’t put a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.”


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