And it’s that space in between utter colorblindness and cancerous racism that Hollywood—not to mention other sectors of society—seems to have so much trouble with. Most of us aren’t saints who are wholly untainted by racism or Klan members. Instead, we grow up with ingrained and historically determined conceptions about race that influence our behavior, we learn that those ideas are social constructions rather than immutable truths, and we grapple with those realizations. Many people of color in this country are fortunate enough not to be subject to violent hate crimes but not fortunate enough to be free of more subtle and pernicious racism. And if you’re white, as I am, your life is affected by your race, too, but in ways that have been treated as if they’re natural and unremarkable. All of this seems rather unsurprising to me and very definitely interesting. But so often in Hollywood, it is dangerous territory.
It’s a good thing that white writers have become conscious of the idea that it’s bad to speak on behalf of people of color in a way such that people of color’s perspectives are treated as unnecessary. But to become afraid to speak about race at all is to minimize the importance of race’s substantive influence on our lives. If ”Deception’s” creators think being nuanced about race would crowd out other issues they said they want to explore like family, they haven’t thought hard enough about the ways that differing attitudes about race can divide white families even today. And if they don’t want to consider how growing up as a black woman in the family of her mother’s white employer affected Joanna, they are missing out on opportunities to give her specific insight and strengths. Addressing racial difference, in other words, can be a way to unearth narratively interesting pain. But being willing to see racial difference can also mean coming into contact with new ideas, perspectives, and cultural and historical traditions that make a show and a character–or a life–fuller and more unique.
–Alyssa Rosenberg, “NBC’s ‘Deception,’ And Why Colorblindness Is Not Progressive”
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