Black ‘Survivor’ Cast Members Claim Show Played Into Stereotypes, Call for More Diversity

Ready for change. Multiple past Black Survivor competitors are speaking out about their experiences on the show and the edit they got on screen.

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Ramona Gray Amaro, the first Black woman to compete on the CBS series, opened up about being cast on Survivor: Borneo — and her reaction after she saw the edit months later. She revealed that footage showed her looking lazy at camp when she was actually suffering from dehydration. She was sent home day 12.

“I became the lazy person, which is the furthest thing from the truth. That really upset me and it took me a long time to get over it. … To realize, we signed our life away. They can do whatever they want to do,” Amaro, 49, told NPR. “We can’t swim … we butt heads, we’re athletic, but maybe not smart and strategic. I’m just saying, ‘Do right by us.'”

Ramona Gray Amaro and J'Tia Taylor Black Survivor Cast Members Claim Show Played Into Stereotypes and Call for More Diversity
Ramona Gray Amaro and J’Tia Taylor CBS; YouTube

Another Black contestant, J’Tia Hart, also opened up about her experience, claiming that her true identity wasn’t explored in the edit.

“What they don’t do a great job with, is telling positive stories and connecting with the multifacets of being African American,” the Survivor: Cagayan alum, 38, shared. “I have a degree in nuclear engineering from a top engineering school. I’m a mother. I work in national security. I am very well-rounded. And I just got boiled down to a simple trope of a lazy, unintelligent person.”

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Multiple Black Survivor cast members have now joined together to make a change. On Juneteenth, many alumni began a petition for change on the show and sent a letter to the network requesting a meeting. The initiative, created by Hart and Cagayan costar Brice Izyah, calls for multiple actions to be taken, including casting at least 30 percent of contestants on each season to be BIPOC, “equitable screen time and opportunities” for BIPOC, mental health resources to help BIPOC navigate their experiences and hiring more BIPOC in all parts of production. Additionally, the petition asks Survivor to “condemn racist abuse directed towards BIPOC contestants,” and “announce and enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards racism.”

Black Survivor Cast Members Claim Show Played Into Stereotypes and Call for More Diversity
Black Voices of ‘Survivor’ Roundtable YouTube

Additionally, 12 contestants went on Survivor alum Rob Cesternino‘s podcast to discuss their experience. During the podcast, which was shared via YouTube on June 24, multiple reality stars claimed that white contestants used racial slurs around them during filming, something that was edited out.

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“CBS condemns racism in all its forms and we are committed to inclusive and safe production environments,” the network said in a statement to NPR at the time. “In the spirit of partnership with former contestants, we have responded to the request from the Black Survivor Alliance to meet with representatives from the show and CBS, and we’re working together to set a time for this discussion.”

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