Some people have asked about what definition of race we are using in this 'study' so I'm going to clarify a few things. Both my friend, who is very kindly watching all this TV for me, and I are Europeans from Europe. This means we can't reliably identify Hispanic characters so we've decided, like the US census, to classify them as an ethnicity and ignore them. Instead we're applying European race standards; if you look Greek or Portuguese then you're white - if you're browner than that or have African or East Asian features then you're non-white.
We're aware that this is a completely arbitrary and irrational set of definitions but then the whole concept of race is irrational and arbitrary. We are dying for someone to do a proper study so any time someone wants to step in - feel free.
Below are the overall numbers so far for each show while, as I suspected they would, the aggregate figures for all programmes show an 80/20 split white/black in non-regulars with 32% of white non-regulars and 45% of black non-regulars cast as criminals.
|black %||white criminal %||black criminal %||episodes|
|Person of Interest||34%||35%||32%||4|
|Law and Order: SVU||15%||34%||50%||3|
|Once Upon A Time||11%||0%||0%||6|
So the good news for fictional black characters is that as long as you keep your numbers down you're less likely to be a criminal.