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Norman Lear has created multiple television shows that have taken on racial and societal injustices, but he will soon be in front of the camera as one of the correspondents of the EPIX documentary series, America Divided. Each episode of the series, which Lear executive produces along with Common and Shonda Rhimes, will feature a celebrity reporting on mass incarceration, drugs, and other issues. Lear’s episode deals with the gentrification and housing crisis of New York, with the TV icon going undercover, using a hidden camera to expose racial discrimination. During the show’s Television Critics Association panel Saturday, Lear said he discovered he’s “a really great reporter” while filming it.
He also told journalists he thought we’d be past such issues when he was creating and developing series like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Maude back in the ’70s and ’80s. “It amazes me that we haven’t moved faster,” he said. “Adjacent to that problem is the LGBTQ issue, which just moved so quickly over the last 30 years and is in a place now where we wish the racial situation existed. Racial harmony wants to be moving as far-forward in the next decade or two as the LGBTQ movement did.”
Other names who anchor episodes of the series, premiering September 30, include Rosario Dawson, who will look at the Flint water crisis, and Jesse Williams, who will explore the problems in America’s schools. “We knew way before [Jesse] made that BET speech that he’s a real activist in Black Lives Matter,” said executive producer Solly Granastein. “He made that speech at a time when the country was really focused on these issues and I hope this series has the same impact.”
With the end of the bans on LGBTQ troops, the military has expanded its recruitment pool.
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When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, LGBTQ soldiers couldn’t serve openly in the US military — as a result of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) for gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals and a ban, through military medical regulations, for transgender people.
As of June 30, both bans are gone: Congress repealed DADT in 2010, and the US military officially implemented the repeal in 2011. This week, the Pentagon announced it would phase out its ban on trans troops over the next year. It’s a remarkable shift in just a few years — one of the biggest LGBTQ victories in a time period full of LGBTQ victories.
These repeals have been a long time coming, with LGBTQ advocates pushing hard for the changes and the Obama administration eventually coming around as a strong ally, even as some of the military’s top brass remained skeptical.
To this point, much of the conversation about these issues has focused on equality. To be sure, equality is by itself a good reason to allow LGBTQ soldiers to serve openly.
But there’s also another benefit: It makes the military better at its job. If LGBTQ people are going to serve in the military (and history shows they will), it makes far more sense to fully integrate them into the institution than not. Not only does that increase the potential pool of recruits, but it can also improve morale and trust among soldiers.
As the Department of Defense put it on Thursday, it “must have access to 100 percent of America’s population for its all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among the most highly qualified, and to retain them.”