This past weekend, news surfaced that Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim, two stars of CBS’ Hawaii Five-0, were parting ways with the show after they were unable to negotiate a salary that matched the salaries of the other two stars of the show, who happen to be white men. Well now CBS would like you to know that they really did try to keep Park and Kim and even went so far as to offer them money!
In a statement released Wednesday night, CBS said:
Daniel and Grace have been important and valued members of Hawaii Five-0 for seven seasons. We did not want to lose them and tried very hard to keep them with offers for large and significant salary increases. While we could not reach an agreement, we part ways with tremendous respect for their talents on screen, as well as their roles as ambassadors for the show off screen, and with hopes to work with them again in the near future.
Of course, the root of this controversy isn’t that CBS refused to offer any sort of raise—it’s that they refused to compensate their stars equally, a piece of information that’s glaringly absent from the statement despite the words “large” and “significant.” CBS pointedly does not say that Park and Kim were offered the same salaries as their white co-stars, so it certainly seems like the subtext is that CBS offered “significant salary increases...for Asians!”
The gender pay gap, both in Hollywood and elsewhere, has rightfully received more and more attention recently, but this is a pointed reminder that there is a racial pay gap in the entertainment industry that isn’t talked about as often. Outside of Hollywood, Asian men are the only group that outpaces white men (while Asian women earn more than white women, they do still earn less than white men). However, Hollywood doesn’t necessarily play by the same rules as the rest of the country.
Asians, like every other non-white population, are also severely underrepresented in media. They made up just 4% of television roles in the 2014-2015 television season. Sure, white male actors probably have to deal with a pay gap between themselves and Robert Downey Jr., but when it comes to actors of color, the pay inequality is linked to the lack of opportunities there are.
Plenty of us are familiar with the tug of war between being grateful for a raise and feeling frustrated that you’re still not being compensated at the level of your peers—and plenty of us have a more than intimate understanding of the cavernous dissonance between being paid “more” and being paid equally. When it comes to parity, “significant” means nothing, but nice try CBS.
Update, 4:45 PM: Hawaii Five-0 executive producer Peter Lenkov tweeted the following statement about the scandal on Thursday afternoon.
As with the CBS statement, the absence of any mention of salary equity-rather than salary increases—in Lenkov’s statement all-but-confirms that Park and Kim were being offered less than their white co-stars. And if these “unprecedented” raises still didn’t put them on the same par as the white actors, they must have really been getting stiffed beforehand.