Sir Trevor McDonald, Thank You.

In the 2nd of a 4 part profile series for The Sistem, Yinka tells you about a man you already know. Sir Trevor McDonald has been a household name for decades. But how did he reach such heights, when being Black and on TV in 1960's Briton just wasn't a thing?

When we speak about representation on TV one name immediately pops to mind. The name of a man who has been there throughout the entirety of my life. A man who was a staple in pretty much every British household until pretty recently. A man who cried with us when Princess Diana passed and gave us the need-to-know on 9/11. This is a man you can trust, a man who was never late and felt no way about interrupting your Saturday night film. I am talking about Trevor McDonald, or Sir Trev; as we affectionately refer to him in my house.

Sir Trevor McDonald has interviewed Saddam Hussein and Nelson Mandela, he was a constant in most, if not every, house in the UK for more than three decades. Some say that he transcended race, some. I don’t. Sir Trevor is a Black man. A Black man who was seemingly welcomed into the British media with open arms.

He moved to England in 1969 to be a producer for the BBC and became an ITV employee in 1973. He was Knighted in 1999 and finally retired in 2005. After 31 years of broadcasting.
Yes Sir Trevors career has been long and absolutely impressive. His “Tonight” show gave me my first taste of politics with interviews with Tony Blair & George Bush to name but a few (idiots.)
But this isn’t a memorandum, this isn’t a piece dedicated to all of Sir Trevor’s accomplishments, which are almost endless.

This is a thank you note, a nod to the man who looked like my dad, my uncle, on TV showing Britain that not only do Black people exist. But we can do so in the same educated capacity as our white counterparts.
It is no coincidence that the very news Sir Trevor reported for all those years, shows people who look like us; Black and brown people in the worst light possible. sir Trevors very existence and visibility actively countered the negative stereotypes that are often forced upon Black men.

Now, don’t get me wrong, one Black face in a sea of white ones. The existence of one Black man , on one show when there are 24hrs of TV to fill isn’t something to be proud of. This piece is not an ode to ITV for employing a Black person, I actually think that the channel has been leaning on the back of Sir McDonald for way too long and the time for more representation on our TV’s is long overdue. I just want to give Sir Trevor his props.

Whilst researching for this series, I have learnt about Britains first Black policewoman (who resigned due to racism), Britains first Black journalist (who was fired due to racism) and even Britains first Black footballer (who wasn’t acknowledged until 2013) and it has really put into perspective the kind of struggles Sir Trevor must’ve faced and how strong he really had to be to show up to work everyday, knowing that the very people he was broadcasting to. The very people whom he was educating, didn’t actually want him there.

I bet if you ask any person in the 30-60’s they will remember Sir Trevor McDonald with a smile and that is a testament to him and his resilience. He refused to be othered and refuse to back down and for that he deserves his flowers. Sir Trevor McDonald continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration for hundreds if not thousands of young & old Black people.

So this is to you Sir Trevor, thank you.


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