Earlier this month, Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman made a generous donation to Brandeis University, her alma mater. She pledged $4 million to establish an endowed professorship there in the African and African American Studies Department.
In making the pledge, Kauffman said, “It took me a long time to begin to understand how I had internalized systemic racism. I worked very hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And this seemed like a way out of the perspective of a white woman participating in the conversation.”
friends, which Kauffman co-created with David Crane, has been criticized over the years for its lack of diversity. Kauffman saw the show as unfairly targeted at the time. Since then, she has been candid with her regrets about the shortcomings – both in front of and behind the camera.
But she told the Los Angeles Times this week that she has now linked the show’s failings in this area with her own failings.
“It was after what happened to George Floyd that I started to struggle with buying systemic racism in ways I was never aware of,” Kauffman said. “That was really when I started exploring the ways I had participated. I knew then that I had to correct course.
“I’ve learned a lot over the past 20 years,” Kauffman continued. “It is not easy to admit and accept guilt. It is painful to look at yourself in the mirror. I’m ashamed that I didn’t know any better 25 years ago.”
The Grace and Frankie co-creator said that was the reason for the donation.
“I feel like I’ve finally been able to make a difference in the conversation,” she said. “I have to say, after I agreed to this and when I stopped sweating, it didn’t relieve me, but it lifted me. But until I can get it right in my next production, it’s not over. I want to make sure from now on that in every production I do, I consciously hire people of color and actively go after young writers of color. I want to know that I will behave differently from now on. And then I will feel relieved.”