Constance Wu, the 34-year-old star of ABC's Fresh Off the Boat, has made a name for herself speaking out against racism in Hollywood.
This has made her quite popular in Internet social justice circles of late — but it's also had negative consequences, particularly when she's had to meet with the people she's criticizing face-to-face.
"I've gone into a lot of executives' offices since this stuff has come out," Wu told Vulture in a new interview out this week. "And when I talked about it or when they bring it up, they start white mansplaining why I'm wrong and why I am dumb, and why they're good people."
In other words, executives have been taking Wu's critiques personally. Instead of engaging with her on the institutional aspects of Hollywood's racism problem, they have insisted they are essentially "good guys" caught up in difficult circumstances.
"These studio executives, they're like, 'I'm just a good guy who's trying to feed my family,'" Wu said.
"Asian erasure is largely based in systemic bias and microaggression," she explained in another part of the interview. "And when you cause a ruckus about someone's choice who had a good intention, the human reaction is to become defensive."
Wu has been especially vocal in recent months about "whitewashing" — the habit filmmakers have of casting white actors in roles intended to be or coded as Asian, as with Scarlett Johansson's role in the upcoming film Ghost in the Shell.
This practice inevitably leads to fewer opportunities for Asian talent, which is reflected in the numbers. From a previous report by Mic:
According to a recent study from University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications, Asian actors got just 6.3% of the named or speaking roles given to nonwhite actors in Hollywood films in 2014. Since nonwhite actors got less than 30% of such roles that year, which means the total percentage of Asian speaking roles was closer to 1%.
Asian-American actors and advocates have fought back against this erasure in a series of social media campaigns, including #WhitewashedOUT, which drew attention to the personal toll whitewashing takes on Asian performers:
And #StarringJohnCho, a campaign from digital strategist William Yu that reimagines popular Hollywood films by replacing their leads performers with Korean-American actor John Cho:
But if Wu's comments are any indication, these efforts may be falling on deaf — or at the very least overly defensive — ears. Read the rest of her interview at Vulture.