The Brownlist is a comedic satire about race and how the entertainment industry views “diversity”. As an Afghan-American actress, I continue to find that I'm not “girl-next-door” enough to be the white lead, but not “fresh-off-the-camel” enough to be the brown friend (or burka-clad-wife-of-a-terrorist). I've been asked to darken my skin, thicken my accent, and even lie about my ethnicity since being Afghan didn't count as being “ethnic”. My film is about breaking down stereotypes and re-shaping the way the world sees people from the Middle East. We're not all dark, brown, hairy, scary, fanatical Muslims that speak with an accent. Ok, my arms are pretty hairy but...
Deadline published an article last month about Middle Eastern North African (MENA) representation on television. In it they revealed that there are only 1% of MENA actors in regular roles on TV. And of that, 78% are terrorists, tyrants and other stereotypical roles that reinforce negative perceptions of our people. Additionally, the study found that 67% of MENA characters speak with an accent, further reinforcing the idea that MENAs are “foreigners”. Interestingly, however, is that while playing foreigners, the industry until just recently considered us WHITE and we therefore did not count toward fulfilling diversity quotas. I know, my head exploded too.
Representation on screen, in the news, in all forms of media is important — not just for how it teaches others to see minorities, but how minorities see themselves.
Within diversity lies diversity.