At the EW Fest last Saturday, Aziz Ansari addressed the subdued racism that exists in Hollywood during a panel after a screening of his upcoming Netflix show, Master of None.
I think I've previously stated this but I've always been a fan of Ansari's work. And I never really knew too much about the actual things he thought about the world around him. During the panel, Ansari speaks candidly about the show, working on it, casting his parents, and more interestingly, racism in Hollywood.
He talks about an episode in particular that touches on this subject:
Honestly, I think it's awesome that his show approaches these issues directly. And even though his perspective is purely an Indian-American one, I think many People of Color can relate to this feeling.
It's difficult for me to recall all of the positive images of Asian characters on television while I was growing up. Mostly, I remember Jackie Chan and Jet Li being the extent of the cultural understanding that white people had around me. So I was constantly told that I look like these people even though we weren't the same race.
And while I was in high school, I thought that maybe I could be an actor and change the way Asian characters are represented on television or in movies. But there's one conversation I had with an aunt or an uncle that I'll never forget. They asked me if I knew martial arts and then asked me if I could a stereotypically Asian accent. I said no to both of those questions and they said that Hollywood wouldn't have me. And unfortunately, that's pretty true.
And on that note, Ansari even addresses the way Hollywood tries to hit "racial quotas" in television.
The statement above is one that I always sort of believed to be true but never wanted to believe that it was. So, when Ansari mentioned this (the above) I cringed inside a little bit. I've been friends with a lot of people (see: white) who don't really see things this way. Or have told me that I'm "overreacting".
And it's that subdued, almost silent, still apparent version of racism that bothers me and -- apparently -- still runs Hollywood. I've worked with people (see: white) who have said time and time again that they are Politically Correct or Liberal even though they would accuse me of "seeing something that doesn't exist".
It's something I rarely talk about because I'm surrounded by people (see: white) who think they aren't racist because they aren't slinging racial slurs around and are sitting with People of Color during their lunch break. But they can't see past the fact that they've adopted a new brand, a fresher, more 2015 version of racism they think doesn't exist.
If you're so inclined, you can watch the full panel Q&A here.