Spotting the few POC artists in the relatively homogenous pool of American media may be the easiest “Where’s Waldo?” yet. We tokenize them, celebrating their successes as if they singlehandedly solve the lack of diversity plaguing the entertainment industry. We force their cultural narratives upon them, demanding their roots to come alive in every song and every scene. And while culture should be celebrated, our need to constantly emphasize it in the media perpetuates the very barriers we try to break.
POC artists in American media are automatically fenced into their cultural narrative the minute they enter the scene. Regardless of the cast’s demographic or the album’s intention, critics will always associate them with their ethnicities.
Mindy Kaling, one of the few Indian-American actresses to earn a substantial role in American media, is heavily criticized for not exploring her ‘otherness,’ as she stated in an interview with NPR. Without her consent, fans push Kaling to delve into the immigrant identity and are significantly upset by her hesitancy to do so. Her rare role as an Indian-American actress makes her the ideal spokesperson solely because she is one of the few; but it seems as though Kaling never intended to use her career as this platform. Fans chastise Kaling’s character in “The Mindy Project” for never addressing her ethnic identity or dating a POC on the show. Audience members claim she is ignoring important parts of herself to level the playing field with her white coworkers, which…
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