I have to start this article with a disclaimer. I love Mindy Kaling, and if she reads this article, I hope it doesn't stop us from being besties who share cute, curve-hugging dresses, eat cupcakes as a treat after a workout, and get our hair blown out at Dominican salons uptown because we know the men there like our booties. I've loved her since she was Kelly on The Office. I follow her on Twitter and Instagram. I purchased her book in actual paperback (no Kindle download here). Not to mention, I Hulu her show constantly and haven't missed an episode since it aired.
Have you figured out why I love Mindy so much? She's me. Okay, she's the insanely talented, Indian version of me. She's brown, curvaceous, and trying to figure out her life. She looks, sounds, and acts like most of my black girlfriends who live and work in NYC.
You know who we don't sound or act like? Tamra, the one black recurring character on the show. She's the ghetto, sassy, neck-popping black girl and, of course (!), she has a boyfriend named Rayron. Of course, she does. The scenes with Tamra have always gotten under my skin, and I could never figure out just why. I'm used to seeing caricatures of black women on screen, and, to be honest, it's not Tamra's low-budget antics that irritate me the most. In fact, I love VH1's reality series, even though they constantly find the most entertaining, over-the-top yet borderline offensive versions of women that look like me. Black women. Brown girls. Yet, still, I watch.
I've never felt that shows, scripted or reality, are responsible for showing black women acting a certain way in order to show that I act a certain way. If you think black women act exclusively like what you see on Love and Hip-Hop or The Mindy Project, you need to get out more.
Then, when I read about her rejecting responsibility for diversity on her show because she's "a fucking Indian woman," I realized. It's Mindy. Mindy Kaling is the reason Tamra makes me cringe. She should know better.
Why? Because we expect more from her. She's not a white, 50-year-old male who gets his info on how black women think and act from BET. She's not Mona Scott Young or Tyler Perry, who have their own troubled relationships with the black community. I expect a black woman struggle session from Tyler, and we know that despite Mona being extremely classy in person, she's in business to show black women clawing each other's eyes out. I'm not on their team.
But, smart, funny, talented, fellow 30-something brown girl Mindy? I root for her. I want her to win. When I look at her, I see a version of myself. So, when she sees black women, I am worried that she sees us as the version she chooses to project on her show.
I can't speak for every black woman. I can say, I don't want diversity for the sake of diversity but if you are going to do it, do it right. Modern Family has done an excellent job at this. From the cop who fought with Jay at the festival to Kevin Hart to the latest cameo by Aisha Tyler, it has shown a range of characters who were just funny and interesting and normal. They looked like my friends and family and acted no differently than the rest of the cast. Not a neck pop or gum smack in sight.
The rest of the time on Modern Family, there's not a black person on camera. That's fine. I don't need every show to have a token black character. I would just like it if the girls I see myself in also saw themselves in me — and then represented what the mirror showed.
This entire article was spawned because of questions about Mindy falling for only white men on her show. That, I have no problem with. She has a type. If it's tall, beefy, fluent-in-French Bradley Cooper and she wants to kiss only boys that look like him, I fully support that. In fact, Mindy, I would be an excellent wingwoman if you want to scour bars looking for him. Like I said, I'm totally down for a SoulCycle class (followed immediately by a trip to Magnolia) next time you're in NYC.