The creator of Friends is admitting to being a passive participant in systemic racism due to the lack of diversity in her hit sitcom. She has also apologized for not addressing the lack of diversity in a 2022 Friends reunion, and is now pledging $4 million to correct her despicable behaviour.
The sitcom, which started in the mid 1990s, is known for its cast of friends (as the name suggests) which apparently do not stand up to the test of time after the cultural revolution triggered by the death of a fentanyl addict in Minnesota in 2020. The show’s biggest crime is that all six of the show’s main characters are white. The cast included Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman said. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago,” the co-creator said.
“I knew then I needed to course-correct,” Kauffman said to the New York Post, pledging $4 million to fund an endowed chair at the Brandeis University’s African American Studies department.
According to Brandeis University, the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies “will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora” and “assist the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship,” The Post Millennial reports.
“It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism,” Kauffman told Brandeis. “I’ve been working really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And this seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman’s perspective.”
“In this case, I’m finally, literally putting my money where my mouth is,” Kauffman said. “I feel I was finally able to make some difference in the conversation.”
“I have to say, after agreeing to this and when I stopped sweating, it didn’t unburden me, but it lifted me up. But until in my next production, I can do it right, it isn’t over. I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of color and actively pursue young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened,” she said.
Kevin Bright, the other co-creator, said that the cast was selected because of the cast’s chemistry. “I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was black?” Bright told the Hollywood Reporter.