The readings of this week did an excellent job of illustrating the failings of diversity in media, where white is still neutral and race constitutes as an otherness that can only be overcome through assimilation. I particularly responded to Esposito’s definition of Meritocracy “as the recognition of individual merit and the belief that anyone (regardless of life circumstance) can achieve the “American dream” as well as how this discourse “ allows the privileged to place blame on the marginalized for any failure to achieve.” (523, 524) Esposito was smart to use Ugly Betty, which takes place in a workplace, to illustrate how meritocracy affects marginalized people’s ability to achieve as well as white employees/employers failure to recognize the validity of this. Whereas I agree with Esposito that Ugly Betty encouraged traditional views of meritocracy, I disagree with her stance that “utilizing comedy to explore complex issues allows for the topics to be taken less seriously” (527).
Although not directly about affirmative action, HBO’s Insecure succeeds in illustrating the obstacles women of color face in white work spaces while successfully employing humor. In the episode “Racist As Fuck,” the character Molly encounters her law film’s newest intern Rashida, a fellow Black woman whose personality and vernacular clashes with the demeanor of her nearly all white law firm. In other words, Rashida made the mistake of not acting appropriately white and therefore is not seen as neutral or professional. At first, Molly puts it upon herself to tell Rashida to tone down who she is, thus implying that she needs to assimilate in order to succeed. When Rashida uses her qualifications to defend herself, suggesting that her hard work is enough, Molly is left with the realization that maybe society has become more “post-racial” since she started her career.
Of course, this proves not to be the case when Molly’s White employer gives her the task to un-otherize Rashida while carefully making the request “not” racial. Molly struggles with this but finally uses her boss’s discomfort with race to get her to talk to Rashida herself. It’s unfortunate that Rashida is still going to have assimilate, but the resolution is a realistic reflection of modern society. Throughout the episode, comedy is peppered throughout so that it really hits home how ridiculous the concept of colorblindness while illustrating the truth of racism in the work place. I would have to attribute this episode’s success to the fact that it, unlike Ugly Betty, was actually written by women of color rather than a perspective that never deeply evaluated Whiteness.