Freida Pinto is the lead in a series about black-power in ’70s London, yikes

Guerrilla UK TV premiere

For a few weeks, Freida Pinto has been on a promotional tour for her new Showtime/Sky series called Guerrilla. The series was created and written by African-American producer/screenwriter John Ridley, who won an Oscar for the 12 Years a Slave screenplay. Ridley also created ABC’s American Crime, incidentally, and he seems to have made his post-Oscar career all about telling complicated stories about race and racial tensions. Well, Guerrilla focuses on racial tensions and the Black Power movement in the 1970s… in London. Here’s the trailer:

Do you see anything tricky and/or problematic here? I actually winced a little bit. It’s not that I dislike Freida Pinto, nor do I think she’s a bad actress. But if you’re going to make a movie about the Black Power movement… why cast an Indian actress as the lead? So, when they premiered the first episode in London last week, Ridley, Idris Elba and Freida all took part in a panel discussion after the premiere. And it did not go well. British outlets report that when London-based Black Lives Matter activists challenged Ridley and Pinto on her character, Freida was “reduced to tears” and “left stunned.” Ridley made the point that “being called Black in the Seventies referred to all people of colour from former British colonies.” Which I didn’t know? Indians were called “black” in Britain?? While Freida was too upset to answer questions, Ridley stuck around for an hour to discuss the series and why he made certain choices about race:

At the premiere of the Showtime/Sky civil rights drama Guerrilla on Thursday in London, the post-screening Q&A didn’t quite follow the usual, fluffy, congratulatory script. Several members of the audience at the Curzon Bloomsbury cinema reacted strongly to the character played by Freida Pinto, an Asian woman called Jas Mitra who finds herself at the militant heart of a movement battling racist elements of the British police force and legal system of the early 1970s.

“Why are there no black women at the forefront of the struggle?” asked one audience member. “That doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect what happened in the ’70s in the U.K.”

Another went so far as to suggest the writers of Guerrilla had, in putting an Asian women at the heart of the plot, overseen the “erasure of black women” from the story. Show creator, 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley, responded by saying that should aspects of Guerrilla be difficult to understand or accept, “I feel I have done my job,” adding that if “everybody understood racism, oppression … there would be no reason to be doing this show … we would be doing Dancing With the Stars.”

But as the debate raged on, a visibly emotional Ridley, holding back tears, explained that the reason for choosing to have a mixed-race couple at the center of the story was because he was in a mixed race relationship himself.

“The things that are being said here, and how we are often received, is very equivalent to what’s going on right now in the world. My wife is a fighting, my wife is an activist, and yet because our races are different there are a lot of things we have to still put up with.”

The historical accuracy of Ridley’s decision was backed up by Neil Kenlock, seen as the British Black Power movement’s official photographer. “What John did was exactly spot on,” he said. “We had an Asian woman, and she was extremely active. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what I’ve seen today.”

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, Ridley explained how he fully expected Guerrilla, which also stars Idris Elba, Babou Ceesay and Rory Kinnear, to spark a debate.

“If you’re dealing with race, if you’re dealing with politics, if you’re dealing with people who have traditionally been considered ‘others,’ there is going to be someone, somewhere who is going to be upset about what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s not about agreement, it’s about allowing people in some way to have some thing that they can talk about, whether they agree or disagree … start a conversation.”

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

I think both sides have important points. One, it’s not like everything was amazing for Indians, Pakistanis and other racial minority groups in Britain at that time and of course there were many non-black allies, disrupters and activists in what was then called a “Black Power” movement. It’s also important to represent the contributions made by those non-black activists, especially considering they were also racial minorities facing discrimination, violence and more. But on the other side… yes, this does feel like a significant erasure of black women. It feels like colorism and misogynoir to have an Indian woman as the lead of a series about a “black power” movement. It would be like making a bio-pic of Rosa Parks and making Reese Witherspoon the lead of the film, starring as a white lady who once met Rosa Parks.

All that being said, I feel sorry for Freida a little bit. It’s difficult for an Indian actress to find a great role on a major TV series, just as it’s difficult for a black actress to find a great role on a major TV series. But Freida probably should have asked a few more questions about this, right?

Guerrilla UK TV premiere

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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154 Responses to “Freida Pinto is the lead in a series about black-power in ’70s London, yikes”

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  1. Daisy says:

    Judging by most movies and TV shows, in Britain and the US, isn’t it harder for people of Indian or Pakistani heritage to find jobs? People od Asian heritage on general? Even harder than for black people?

    • vauvert says:

      But that is really not the point here, is it? (you may well be right.) The topic is black lives in the UK in the 70s and while this is not as tone deaf as the Ghost in the Shell whitewashing, it is also NOT good. Why do these people keep making poor choices when it comes to casting?

      So here’s a comment that probably wont win me any friends today – but how can we expect white directors and producers to be respectful, inclusive and woke, when you get minority directors making dumb choices too – this is an example, the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone, the Great Wall movie debacle with Damon as the white saviour etc. I am not saying that a POC has more responsibility or less than a white director – I think it’s equally shared. Cast the right people in movies and shows, folks. I am so sorry that Marco Polo did not get more love – I was so impressed with that show because for once they got the casting right and it was actually brilliantly acted, proving that yes, you can absolutely find talent across the board, regardless of race and ethnicity. Rant over…

      • Original T.C. says:

        Hate to be cynical but in Hollywood Frieda Pinto with her pale Brown skin, good hair and Caucasian-like features (but full lips) IS the definition of a Black Woman used by both Black and White centered films. Yes she is a different ethnicity but she has the prized “look”.

        I am not surprised John Ridley didn’t consider this an insult to Black women. We have been told to shut up and accept this definition for the last 100years. That is why I watch YouTube soap operas from Nigeria and Ghana when I want to see Black actresses who look like members of my family and friends.

      • Esmom says:

        Well said. You’d think these poor casting choices would have stopped after the first couple times.

      • Megan says:

        Not to mention there are so many great actress who are also drop dead gorgeous (I assume that was part of the casting requirement) who could have been cast … Thandie Newton, Naomie Harris, Sophie Okonedo, Gigi Mbatha-Raw, etc.

      • Wal says:

        @Megan, you just mentioned 3 out of 4 actresses who are biracial. Which is in it self another discussion about colourism and the erasure of dark skinned women in the media.
        But to get to the point this was a very bad idea to cast and Indian woman with straight hair (that Remy) and essentially ‘white’ features at the forefront of the Black movement.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        “The topic is black lives in the UK in the 70s and while this is not as tone deaf as the Ghost in the Shell whitewashing, it is also NOT good.”

        Is that the topic? I thought the topic was the UK Black Power organization, which did have Asian members?

      • CTgirl says:

        The writer wrote the central couple as a mixed race couple. This isn’t a situation where the writer wrote a story about a black couple and then the director/producer decided to cast someone of another race. This was cast appropriately based on what the writer intended. It apparently resonated with who every gave it the green light for production. Why do people feel entitled to tell the writer what to write? If people don’t like the narrative then write your own damn book, play, screenplay, poetry, etc. This is a truly ridiculous argument that presumes that the public gets to dictate to the writer. It’s not erasing black women, it’s telling a different side of the race story. People have lost their common sense.

    • DeniseMich says:

      @Vauvert, I think that was the point here. The story was trying to be relevant to the most oppressed group in the UK, which isn’t blacks.

      I went to school briefly in the UK in the 1990s and I have seen and heard the prejudice against the Indian and Pakistani community.

      As a Black American, I was at first confused and then stunned. I was told not to bother with a girl by other UK ‘white friends’. When this was said to me in front of the Indian chick. I was blank faced yet kept talking. Later as we were walking away, I asked why and it was literally we don’t need to talk to that kind.

      It is really different there.

      • Sixer says:

        I wouldn’t call it an oppression hierarchy but it is very true that it isn’t the same as the US. “Paki-bashing” by skinheads was a thing when I was little in the 1980s. I used to get called a “Paki-lover” by the local skinheads because my best friend was a Sikh girl (and yes, of course, an INDIAN Sikh girl, cos racists are never that bright).

      • Goldie says:

        @denisemich, well if that’s the case, why not cast an Asian male actor as one of the two male leads? I hear that Frieda’s character may have actually been inspired by an Asian man.
        It just to seems so typical that they cast 2 dark-skinned black men in lead roles, but then had an Indian woman as the female lead of a series about the black empowerment movement. Black women are constantly being erased.
        That said, I don’t blame Frieda for taking the role. I know it’s difficult for woc of all backgrounds to find quality roles.

      • Fran says:

        I think we need to be careful not to automatically apply a US context to a British story. Of course there will be strong similarities but also nuances that are particular to each country’s history. I think it’s totally unfair and ill-informed to make any judgment until we’ve seen, at least, the first episode.

      • sanders says:

        Agreed Fran. I have said many times here that as a South Asian who grew up in Canada and now live in the US, there is a huge difference in the way I experience racism. I have had minimal racist experiences in the US compared to Canada, both explicit and institutional. This is a significant difference between two neighbouring countries on the same continent. It makes perfect sense that the UK will be very different, so why apply an american anti-racist analysis to a country with its own distinct history of racism, discrimination, colonialism etc.

        I think the US reserves all its hostilities for Black and Hispanic communities. They are the primary marginalized groups due to the unique history of this country.

        The Uk colonized India for hundreds of years so there is a long tradition of looking down on Indians. We have a brutal history of exploitation and violence under British rule, not to mention the horror of partition. It is to be expected that South Asians who move to the UK would be treated badly. I would also argue that Canada, due to its closer alignment with the UK, has taken on a similar racism toward South Asians. In the 1970′s, Indians/South Asians were threatened with actual violence. I didn’t just read this in a book, it happened to me and our home and place of business was vandalized. People did organize and form resistance.
        A long time ago, during my undergrad, I remember reading about this period in UK history and knew that the term Black was used to describe South Asians and Afro Caribbeans. I thought it was so inspiring because I had not seen that kind of solidarity in Canada. I too expect that this series should have more prominent representation of Black women and south asian men. I guess we’ll wait and see.

      • Goldie says:

        @ Sanders and Fran I understand your points about the differences between race relations in the US vs the UK. For what it’s worth I am a black American, but I am the child of immigrants, rather than a direct descendant of black slaves who were brought to the US hundreds of years ago. I grew up in predominantly white towns with Asians making up the largest minority groups. Even though I was the only black girl in my class of about 300 students I didn’t feel too out of place, because I could easily relate to my Asian classmates, most of whom were also children of immigrants. Perhaps there was also a similar solidarity between black and Asian immigrants in the UK.
        That said, it is also worth noting the criticism in this instance was initiated by British people, not Americans. So regardless of whether or not you agree with Pinto’s casting I don’t think it’s fair to use this as another example of ethnocentric Americans.

      • DeniseMich says:

        @goldie, I can’t talk to why John Ridley, the creator, a black american who is married to a latina american decided this casting made sense. However, I don’t think it has to do with a misunderstanding of the situation in any regards. This man has written American Crime and is basically documenting race relations in america as they reflect the criminal system.

        On a side note: I am tired of people fighting for their representation in terms of race. If we spent as much time making sure we were represented correctly as breaking down the race construct, I think we would all be in a better place.

      • sanders says:

        Goldie, I’m glad to hear you had a positive experience in the town you grew up in.

        My comment was partially in response to some of the commentators on this this thread who I think are conflating the US black power movement with the one in the UK. They are two distinct movements with distinct histories and actors. It would be absurd to have an Indian lead in a series depicting the American movement but it is plausible in a series set in the UK.
        Additionally, I wonder if the critique posed by the British journalists is missing the historical context of the film. I suspect that black is no longer used to encompass both South Asian and Afro-Caribbeans as it was over 40 yrs ago. It was a reality during that time and so Frieda Pinto’s character does not ring a false note to me.
        A quick google search produced this article from the Guardian that speaks to this issue.

        Having said that, I do get why people would be disappointed that a Black actress isn’t more prominently featured.

      • Sixer says:

        Sanders – just to say that I think you pretty much have it right. The liberation movements in the UK in the 70s were movements to defend post-colonial minority immigrant populations. It would appear strange today, as much to Brits as Americans, but that’s how it was then.

        Another link to a very simple explanation of the situation from the site I posted below.

        Like I say, I will be truly upset if no character in this show represents the many, many influential black women activists of the time, but the inclusion of Pinto IN ITSELF is neither inaccurate nor erasing.

        I don’t think people are doing it on this thread but it is bloody annoying when Americans themselves erase everyone else’s struggles and experiences because it doesn’t match theirs. It’s a frequent occurrence.

      • sanders says:

        thanks Sixer. Great to read your input about this topic.

        I personally would’ve preferred the romance angle be ditched and replaced by black and Indian women as leads. That would have been far more interesting.

  2. KJA says:

    There’s a concept of ‘political blackness’ in Britain-I first came across it when I started university. Basically marginalised and ‘ethnic minority’ groups were all placed under, and took on, the category of black as a political and social identity from what I understood. As a black woman I personally disagree with political blackness, and from my time at uni, and talking to people in student politics it seems to be something that few agree with anymore, at least at my uni

    Most of this is from the Twitter testimonials of people who were there so bear with me. Apparently the people questioning the casting weren’t affiliated with black lives matter, they were just black women asking for clarifications on the casting. The makers of this series made an active choice of having a fictional Asian woman as the lead. I may be wrong, but based on what I gathered from twitter her character is based on an Asian man who was actually part of the real life struggle-please correct me if this is not true. So instead of highlighting the actual black women who part of the actual history of the movement, they went through all of that to cast Freida-that’s erasure. POC solidarity is important, but at this point it seems like black women keep losing out while fighting for everyone else

    • Sixer says:

      Yes. For example, Olive Morris, who was one of the best known black women activists at the time, was a founder member of both the British Black Panthers and the Brixton Black Women’s Group, but also a founder member of OWAAD, which was one of the big feminist general liberation groups combining both black and Asian women.

      The London scene at that time was very intersectional. You had black activist and academic Stuart Hall actively campaigning for women and pulling shifts at free childcare groups, for example.

      I thought people were right to challenge at the Q&A. As I say below, I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen past the first episode.

    • OhDear says:

      Oh, so that was what Pinto was talking about when she talked about political blackness – she was quoted as using the term when discussing the casting and everyone was…confused, to put it mildly.

      • Sixer says:

        Yes. A total disaster to American ears generally and even British ears today, but an actual thing in the UK in the 1970s due to the nature and time of immigration of minority communities here.

      • WeAreAllMadeofStars says:

        But why was everyone so confused if this was taking place in the UK? Surely people know the history of their own country, and if it were no big deal, then why are British BLM members protesting? I had coworkers who were Caribbean and Indian who would tell other people in the office that they were “black” and this was in the US. If black people are not appropriately represented by this film, I can see why people are upset.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      Based on the comments from the official photographer for the Black Power group in the UK, there was an actual Asian woman who was active in the organization.

      “The historical accuracy of Ridley’s decision was backed up by Neil Kenlock, seen as the British Black Power movement’s official photographer. “What John did was exactly spot on,” he said. “We had an Asian woman, and she was extremely active. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what I’ve seen today.”

      • KJA says:

        That’s an interesting point Tiffany, I didn’t know that. Right now I’m taking the position a lot of people on the thread have. I’m critical, but I’ll wait to see if there are substantial roles for black women. I just find it odd that the creators decided to highlight that specific aspect-the involvement of an Asian women and making her the lead-without including substantial roles for black women from the beginning of the series. They could have payed tribute to the involvement of other ethnic minorities without erasing black women. I’ll wait and see but so far I’m not impressed

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Without seeing it, I can’t determine if they don’t have substantial roles for black women. If they aren’t strongly represented, then yes, it is a complete outrage. But as a white woman, I can’t help but feel it also seems wrong to remove the participation of other minorities, especially if a project is set during a time when they were working together towards equality. I think there needs to be more roles for black women, but I also think there needs to be more roles for Asian women. If their participation in this organization is indeed historically accurate, then I don’t see why they can’t be included in this project. As an American, I find the history DeniseMich, Sanders and Sixer write about above to be stunning. I think it is worth while to explore why various groups were treated the way they were, and to give nuance to their shared and separate struggles.

        I have liked Frieda in the past, and I would love for her to work more. She only did two shorts in 2016. It concerns me that there don’t seem to be a lot of roles for her…and I think that speaks to a larger problem.

  3. Debbie says:

    White rish were also considered black. My mum struggled to find suitable housing as a lot of them wouldn’t rent to Irish.

    • ell says:

      not in the UK, you’re talking about the US.

      • WeAreAllMadeofStars says:

        Oh really? You should run that by some Irish people in the UK.

      • ell says:

        everyone already wrote it; irish were discriminated against, colonised, and treated like dirt by the brits. were they considered black? no.

      • 600Purple says:

        This is true. Irish weren’t considered black even though they were discriminated against. Being discriminated against and being of colour is not the same. Eastern Europeans are now discriminated against but they’re not considered black. Oddly, although there will always be purist a-holes, mostly the feeling in Britain now (outside of London) seems to be unity with people of colour because they’re all far more concerned about Eastern European immigration. I think race problems in the UK are not really the same as those in the US. The US has far more of a divide.

    • SilverUnicorn says:

      Not at all. If that was so, no need to differentiate between them on the infamous signs “no Irish no blacks”.

    • AmunetMa'at says:

      And so were Sicilians at one point, and so was Native Americans, and so was Hispanic people. However, Irish and Italians stopped being considered black by the early 1900s. White power structure in America needed them to be white, do the stigma was still there vut their status was different. If someone made a show or movie about the black power movement and used anyone besides someone with 60-70% Sub-Saharan African genetics I would be upset. That is not being true to the philosophy and actions of the movement.

      • Luca76 says:

        I was just listening to a personal account by an Italian man who was perhaps in his mid 60s and he was talking about how when he was growing up Italians weren’t considered white. How they were discriminated for jobs etc. The thing is in general it created a big tension between the Italian community and blacks as the Italians wanted to strongly differentiate themselves from the Black community.

        OTOH the history with the Irish is a bit more intertwined as at a time Irish were indentured and servants with Black People. They intermarried and there are quite a few Black people with Irish names etc. But in the Irish began to be assimilated and were given jobs etc.

        I think the Native American issue is separate because the history is more complex, and Hispanic is also because there are African Latinos.

      • AmunetMa'at says:

        In the US the Irish were able to assimilate into white culture by the early 1900s. That alone disqualifies them from the legal consequences of being black. They were afforded more rights than those of African descent in America. However, were the discriminated against socially, yes. But legally they had m9re coverage and rights. The point is that at one point in U.S. history anyone not Western European ancestry was labelled black but some were legally able to have this status changed. Irish claiming a piece of this fight is absurd. Does not mean they did not face prejudice but their fight is cosmetically and fundamentally different than those of the African Diaspora.

      • Luca76 says:

        I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. I never meant to claim Irish were black just that at one time they were indentured and discriminated against.

      • Duzan says:

        The way the Irish were treated in the UK is very different to how they were favourably treated in the US AMUNETMA’AT.

      • lala says:

        Italian immigrants to North America weren’t seen as white for a long time – in some places in Canada (industrial Cape Breton) Italians were only allowed to work the same awful, dangerous jobs as African Nova Scotians in the mining and steel production industries. In fact some of the worst racial epithets used against African nova Scotians were also used against Italians in the late 19th, early 20th century (I wont provide examples, Im sure you can guess which ones). I am of Italian descent and still get asked if I consider myself white, because Im olive skinned..go figure…

        FYI I’m not equating the experiences of Italians with African Nova Scotians, I’m simply stating that historically, they were considered non-white and suffered discrimination because of that.

    • Lurker says:

      Yowza, Debbie.

      Facing discrimination is not the same thing as being considered black. Nobody ever looked at your Mam and thought she was a Black woman.

      While there has been anti-Irish sentiment throughout the years, it is not the same as Racism. Mainly because Irish isn’t a race.

      Also, that line of thinking is prevalent in white nationalist thought and discussion groups (“Irish were enslaved and face racism and they’ve gotten over it , so why are Blacks still going on about it?” or “Racism isn’t real, whites have faced discrimination throughout history, look at the Irish!”), it’s a pretty despicable way to minimise the Black experience, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make by bring it up?

      • Sixer says:

        Because it’s Britain? Because of the vicious colonial history between Britain and Ireland? For a VERY long time, Irish people were regarded as subhuman in Britain in the same way AAs were regarded as subhuman in the US. And those attitudes persisted well into the latter half of the twentieth century, resulting in longstanding and pernicious oppression via structural forces. Why do you think so many emigrated from Ireland to the US before Irish independence? To escape being treated as subhuman.

        It’s the BRITISH story, not the American story. Is it despicable of Americans to consistently erase the experiences in other countries in favour of their own?

      • Lurker says:

        I’m Irish, so I’m well aware of Anglo-Irish relations.

        I don’t believe that anti-Irish sentiment is the same as racism, and I don’t think that being Irish is “considered black”. There’s a lot of nuance and subtlety in the varying treatments of people by a colonial power, and Debbie saying that her Irish mother was considered black, is in my opinion, false equivalence and not relevant to this discussion.

      • WeAreAllMadeofStars says:

        So your argument is that history never happened because skinheads use the systematic oppression of the Irish as an excuse to advance racist and baseless claims against blacks? Hookay! You are of course aware that during the famine, the English farmed out food to themselves, and that as a legacy of colonialism Ireland had some of the highest rates of child abuse in Europe, right? That’s what happens when you are oppressed and mistreated for 700 years.

        Also Sixer, look at the spelling and vocabulary in this post. It ain’t American. Just saying.

      • Lurker says:

        WeAreAllMadeOfStars, I’m not arguing that history never happened at all, just trying to keep things clear – when we conflate the history of the Irish with the history of other marginalised, we all lose.

        As Ive said, I’m Irish, I’m a history graduate, so again Anglo-Irish relations are familiar to me. I understand very well the myriad ways the Irish have been oppressed. Neither yourself nor Sixer nor Debbie have managed to explain what an offhand about an Irish woman in the 70s is doing in article about black power in the 70s.

        My point still stands: a white woman was not “considered black”. Black and Irish were two different kinds of oppression, and mixing them up does a disservice to both experiences.

    • Blimey says:

      Your white mother would have had a much harder time of it if she were actually black. You know, actually had a black face. It’s heartbreaking to hear people minimise the racism that black people suffer. Black people can never hide their black face and black features to get ahead in life. Your white mother had a white face and an accent that can easily be hidden/minimised and certainly would not have been passed down to the next generation. I remember the Irish having it hard but they were not as hated as people with actual black faces and black features. I’m from UK and I remember the 70′s well.

      • jwoolman says:

        I used to believe that groups like the Irish could assimilate more easily because they could blend in, until I met an old fellow from the Netherlands. I was about 20-21. At some point in the conversation, he said something that meant he knew I was Irish. I was astonished and asked how he knew that (my name wasn’t Irish and I hadn’t mentioned my ancestry). He laughed and said “You have the map of Ireland on your face.”

        In other words – in 1830s Boston, even with a mainstream accent and mainstream clothing and a non-Irish name, there is simply no way that I could have passed for anything but Irish and I would have never been able to get beyond the No Irish Need Apply signs. My generation (college age in the 1960s-1970s) was a little wobbly about such ethnic differences, especially if we didn’t live in ethnic neighborhoods, but my grandparents’ generation was still aware of them. As long as the distinctions are socially important, people do know the ethnic signs and that knowledge probably lingers beyond the discrimination period. Other things must have happened to make being Irish no longer a liability, but it wasn’t because we could “blend in” with the main population based on physical appearance. Because we really couldn’t.

    • Outstanding World Citizen says:

      No they weren’t. They weren’t considered to be white. These two things aren’t the same. Quit being obtuse.

  4. ana says:

    uh oh. when will they learn?

  5. Snazzy says:

    I’d like to read what our fellow brits think about this – it’s important we don’t mix up the meaning of what is black in america to what it is in other countries, especially ones with such a strong colonial history, like Britain.

    • Goldie says:

      Well the screening was in London. From what I read it sounds like the people who were questioning the casting were British. I don’t know whether casting Frieda Pinto was accurate or not, but this doesn’t sound like a case of Americans assuming that social/ethnic identities were the same in Britain as they are in America.

    • Sixer says:

      It is different to the US in this particular way: in the UK, in the 1970s, both black and Asian minorities shared an identity in that they were both recent (first and second generation) immigrant populations from Britain’s colonies and ex-colonies. Although the black people were children of the slave trade in the same way as the US black population is, they hadn’t been IN the UK since emancipation. They, like the Asian population, had immigrated to the UK in the post-WWII period to shore up Britain’s labour shortages.

      So that is why many of the liberation movements included both black and Asian people. They had the same situation.

      That said, Guerrilla seems to centre on a part of the story that was particular to black immigrant populations (and black from the Caribbean, not black from African countries) in that it deals with Brixton (a famously black Caribbean area) and its relationship with an institutionally racist police department (Special Branch). And in that particular strand of the struggle, there were as many prominent women black activists as there were men, so if the story doesn’t feature a representation fo at least one of them, then it has problems.

      Hope that helps!

  6. LAK says:

    As soon as i read ‘asian woman’ and ‘early 70s’ in London, my first thought was that he was going to deal with the forced expulsion of Asians from Uganda in that time frame. Most of them ended up in Britain and Canada. Most British Asians of that vintage still identify as Ugandan or Kenyan if you ask about origins. They were not welcomed with open arms.

    Of course that doesn’t mean it was a mutually exclusive situation, but a series that showcases asians in that timeframe should have that element because that was the significant event for that community for the timeframe.

    As for this particular series, accurate or not, it seems that a ham-fisted execution of a good idea led to hostile audience reception. The producers should have known better and Ridley should have known better.

    • Sixer says:

      And yet, the Ugandan Asians ended up being one of the most spectacularly economically successful immigrant groups ever. Amin basically expelled his entire mercantile and professional class, didn’t he?

      • Snazzy says:

        My mom and dad are some of those that were kicked out (made it to Canada, not the UK: my mom still talks about that first winter…). It’s true that while the racism and discrimination was intense, they were able to integrate and eventually become part of an economically successful immigrant community. Much of that has to do with, as you said Sixer, the fact that the people that were kicked out were the ones who had an important stake in the country’s economics success. It is the reason they were kicked out in the first place- to take back control of the economy so to speak, and put it back in the hands of Ugandans / Kenyans.

      • Sixer says:

        Exactly. It was a brain drain for Uganda.

      • LAK says:

        Yes, but you can blame Colonial power for this one plus a long held prejudice against foreigners.

        Whilst Uganda wasn’t a colony in the same way that Kenya was a colony, the British actively promoted Asians over the locals in professional positions and industry and that created resentment.

        By the time Amin came to power, there was a xenophobic populist movement against all things Asian mixed in with the traditional view of foreigners.

        He played on the latter to achieve public support for the latter. If you couldn’t prove your roots, you had to go. And gave them 72hrs.

        The effect of ‘brain drain’ wasn’t necessarily felt immediately because the country descended into civil war that lasted until 1986.

        Some parts of the north continue(d) to suffer from guerilla warfare until the 00s.

      • Sixer says:

        Yes to all that too, LAK.

      • sanders says:

        Mira Nair made the film Mississippi Masala about this community. It’s set in the US and Denzel Washington plays the romantic lead. I’m curious if anyone else as seen it and what they think of it.

      • LAK says:

        Sanders: i saw that film back in 1991. I was too young to fully appreciate the nuances, but i remember thinking the actress was gorgeous, and every time i see her in a guest spot on a tv show i think the same.

        I keep meaning to watch it again as an adult to see what my reactions might be.

        I love Mira Nair and watch & buy all her movies, but for some reason this is the only one in her catalogue that i do not own and have watched only once.

      • sanders says:

        I like Mira Nair’s films too. Did you check out Queen of Katwe?

        Like you, I saw the film when it first came out. All I can remember are the hot sex scenes btw Denzel and that actress. I too wonder what I’d think of it today.

      • LAK says:

        Sanders: Yes, i did. Thought it was ok, but judgement is filtered through an irrational dislike of David Oyelowu which isn’t helpful.

  7. SilverUnicorn says:

    The screenwriter might have been right in defining ‘black’ an Indian woman (heck, they are still defined as black by locals where I live in UK) but why didn’t they choose a Nigerian/British actress to play the role?
    Freida Pinto also seems lighter than the average Indian-British woman (correct me if I am mistaken on this point).

    • ell says:

      i agree with everything else, but no i wouldn’t say she’s on the lighter side, just average.

    • Nicole says:

      The criticism WAS from black Brits. Point still stands. How are you having a show about a black power movement without a black woman at the center? These movements ALWAYS have black women at the forefront. Black men just love to erase that fact. Heck you see it today with BLM (started by black women) and you have black men content to have women go to battle for them while simultaneously erasing them or treating them like sh*t.

      • SilverUnicorn says:


        That was my point as well. Apparently it didn’t come across in the right way….

      • Nicole says:

        @silverunicorn my comment was a response to Snazzy above you. Somehow ended up on the wrong thread.
        Your point came across fine

      • SilverUnicorn says:


        No worries, I’m commenting from my mobile during the day and replies get all mixed up!!

      • Snazzy says:

        I wasn’t saying the point wasn’t important or didn’t stand. I was saying I wanted feedback from Brits as race issues vary from country to country so it was important to take that into account.

      • Nicole says:

        I know @snazzy. But I was saying the initial comments that started this was from black Brits not Americans. And they weren’t even apart of BLM they were just reporters

    • LAK says:

      Asians come in many skin tones. Britain has Asians of different skin tones. Frieda’s particular shade is as representative as the Asian family on East Enders.

    • Jeesie says:

      Punjabi Indians are the largest group of British Indians by quite a lot (they’re about 45% of the British Indian population) and they tend to be fairly light (very generally they’d be within a few shades, either way, of Frieda’s skin tone. The next largest group is the Gujarati, who again are fairly light. So Frieda’s not an unusual representation of Indian women in the UK.

      • teacakes says:

        Freida’s family is South Indian, specifically Mangalorean – she shouldn’t perhaps have been cast in this, but I know for a fact that women of her skin tone are considered ‘dark’ by North Indian standards.

        (one of the things I frequently heard Indian commenters say when she first got famous was that she was too dark to be pretty, looked ‘like a maid’ etc – the colorism and classism is appalling)

      • LAK says:

        Teacakes: i remember the ‘she’s too dark’ comments about Frieda when she first became famous in the west

  8. ell says:

    i don’t know enough. like, are there other female characters who are black, or is she the only female character? if that’s the case then yes, they could have done better.

    • pinetree13 says:

      Well the trailer clearly only showed two female characters…her and a blonde woman. To me, you want an Indian-actress lead, fine but shouldn’t there have AT LEAST been some black women characters too??? Like an additional BLACK woman lead???

      It kind of reminds me of the old star wars movies where there was only one woman in the whole universe. Only in this case it’s “there’s no black women”. It really looks like erasure.

  9. Sixer says:

    The debate was RAGING about this online.

    As I understand it, the Q&A was based on a screening of only the first episode, so I am reserving judgement. Wunmi Mosaku and Zawe Ashton are listed in the main cast, so I’ll wait to see what their roles are. But apparently the only visible black woman in that first episode was an informant for Special Branch. So it’s hardly surprising hackles were raised.

    It’s complicated because Ridley is right that many Asian women were heavily involved in general liberation movements in London in the 70s and 80s. Southall Black Sisters, for example, was (and is) always a deliberate mix of black and Asian women. And some Asian women were involved in the specific Black Power groups. That said, if your show focuses on specific Black Power groups as infamously targeted by Special Branch, you really should be including fictional versions of the stellar black women involved. I mean, if they haven’t got an Olive Morris figure in there, what’s the point?

    • SilverUnicorn says:

      Thanks for the explanation!!

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      I think what Ridley and even Neil Kenlock say isn’t necessarily wrong but it’s only about 30% of the truth. First of all, if you go to imdb and look at the cast you will find black women. Very few. I think only the two you mention? And they are in five and two episodes respectively. However, if you google Kenlock’s photography, it becomes abundandly clear that that is not a good representation of the number of black women involved in the movement.

      I also don’t understand why he’s defending this. If you read his website, it’s pretty obvious that he has been photographing black women/fashion/beauty for decades. So there was an Indian women in the movement. Why did she have to represent the women in this series?

      It’s true, I also still need more info but it isn’t looking all that great. My guess is they wanted a well-known name and a really pretty face and yes, someone … how did that Hollywood exec call Dev Patel? Mid-range brown? Ugh.

      ETA: Not going to blame Pinto for this at all btw. A minority woman, big name or not, will always have to fight harder for good parts. This isn’t on her.

      • Sixer says:

        Oh, let’s have a shout out for Neil Kenlock! American Celebitches – if you want to see wonderful photos of the British Black Power movement at that time, google his collection.

        I’m going to be so upset if this is a foul-up, you know. I’ve been itching to see it ever since it was announced. The BBC fouled up Undercover, its own effort at a story about this time, despite casting Adrian Lester and Sophie Okenedo, a couple of years back. It’s crying out for a seminal TV series, for heavens sakes.

      • littlemissnaughty says:

        I can’t not watch it. It has Idris.

        Not going to lie, I had never heard of Neil Kenlock but his photographs are so gorgeous and inspiring.

      • Sixer says:

        LOL! Same. Can’t boycott Idris.

        I’m holding out hope that one of those actors has a role that represents the contribution of black women to these movements in Britain. If one of them does, I will be ok with Pinto. Cos, as I’ve been saying elsewhere on this thread, the presence of an Asian woman shouldn’t be seen through an ethnocentric American lens. It was (and is) different here.

        But, if they are both bit parts of no significance, I will feel immensely let down. I want a seminal TV series on this topic that covers it as well as Our Friends in the North covered class-based social upheavals in the north of England. It’s a hugely important part of our story.

    • teacakes says:

      Sixer – it’s definitely complicated, I appreciate the background.

  10. Aiobhan Targaryen says:

    I have been reading about this on other websites and I have just come to the conclusion that I am not mad at Frieda about this, not really. Who I am really angry at and disappointed in are ALL the black men, especially Idris Elba and John Ridley, who thought it was ok to have very prominent roles for BLACK MEN but either sidelined all the BLACK WOMEN to dayplayers or an informant to a racist white cop. The black men got their piece of glory but left nothing for black women. This is based on historical events and you could not find one black female leader worth talking about, really? If it was Frieda and a black woman, I would actually be watching this. The black men that are a part of this project ain’t sh#t and need to go f*ck themselves.

    What made it worse was John and Badou either deliberately not answering the journalist’s question or being dismissive of her very valid questions and comments. Both were getting irrationally defensive. John just made everything about himself and his relationship with his wife, which no one asked him about and was not even up for discussion.

    • INeedANap says:

      Ain’t that the most repeated ish in the world.

      I am not black but I am Latina, and that happens with our community too. Latinx men hanging their sisters out to dry once they get theirs, because how else can they feel powerful but to sideline someone else?

      It’s why I stopped working with Latinx support groups and only work with groups that focus on Latina women. The men protect themselves well enough.

      • Nn says:

        A lot of men of color have self loathing issues which is rarely talked about. Usually it is framed as a women of color issue but men have it too and they project it onto the women of their ethnic and racial group.
        This isnt the first time Ridley has erased black women, he did it in red tails as well which is how I know he has issues with black women.
        In the video of him crying he seemed mentally off to me. The reaction didn’t fit the question at all. It was weird. He made it personal and brought up his wife when nothing was said about that.

    • Original T.C. says:

      Preach!! I was always torn between joining organizations fighting racism vs. those fighting sexism. Black Women unfortunately suffer from both equally. To me, Black women are ALWAYS the first to start a movement against racism suffered by their fathers, husbands and sons. Black Women historical even underreport domestic violence, again to protect Black men from our racist society.

      But when the shoe is on the other foot, most Black men are nowhere to be found. Instead they promote negative stereotypes about us to anyone who will listen. As someone said below, I now choose only organizations lead by Black women in fighting for the rights of Black WOMEN.

    • Ellesse says:

      I’m 100% here for this comment thread. Where is the lie? + PREACH + Thank you ladies, because y’all hit on many of my frustrations.

      Black women as a demographic are continually back-burnered or outright ignored by racial equity/justice activists and feminists, yet they rely on or expect our support.

      And I am most definitely not upset with Freida, I will not let some foolery by men who should have known better have me turning against another woman of color who has enough of her own battles to fight in Hollywood. Prime example of why representation behind the camera is incredibly important (Matt Damon, I’m looking at your whitesplaining ass). We don’t just need more people of color, we need more women of color running sh*t.

  11. jinni says:

    It was revealed on twitter that the two women that questioned Pinto were not a part of the BLM movement and were simply two black female reporters. The reporters cleared that up on SM. The BLM movement in London also said that no one associated with and did not have a representative at that Q& A, the writer of the article that said they were BLM lied.

  12. Nebby says:

    The journalist who asked these questions were not apart of black lives matter. There isn’t much of a problem to me to cast an Indian woman in this series, but to erase black women, only present them as informants for the other side, and make white and Indian women the strong girlfriends of these black men is irresponsible.

  13. Jeesie says:

    The Asian Youth Movements were a big, big part of Black Power in the U.K. As someone above mentioned, political blackness was much more in vogue in the seventies, and their were A LOT of very close alliances between Afro-Carribean groups and Asian groups, and a lot of Asians’s were part of Black Power groups and vice versa. I’m not really sure how you’d make a mini-series about this movement in this time period in the UK and not focus quite a bit on that aspect.

    I don’t see that they’ve done anything wrong here. Wunmi Mosaku is part of the main cast too, so it’s not like they’re not including black women alongside Asian women and black men (there’s also Sophia Brown and Zawe Ashton in smaller roles).

    Possibly the story isn’t great and they’ve chosen the wrong fictionalised entry into that world, but right now I’m reserving judgement til I see the whole thing.

    • Sixer says:

      Same here. Showing Asian folk as an important part of black liberation movements in Britain is accurate. That said, ignoring the vital contribution made by black women is erasure. So, I’m forewarned about the first episode and reserving judgement for the whole series.

    • Moon says:

      Thank you. I’m tired of people claiming Asian people were ‘as oppressed’ or weren’t part of to this fight.

  14. AmunetMa'at says:

    The Black Power Movement was a symbolic recreation of the black family structure. Black men and women were building and working together. Non-black people were helpful to the cause but this show missed a great opportunity to represent strong black women in the movement. Even though the movement was not perfect this is infuriating that a black man only wants to recreate his relationship and stitch it into the fabric of our historical stories. We have so many examples of black female leaders within the black power movement and he chose to impose his 21st century relationship, which re-imagines the movement. If that was the story he wanted to tell, he should have done this in a different way.

  15. HK9 says:

    You can do the mental yoga all you like, but it doesn’t sit well with me that basically, black women have been sidelined in the representation of a movement they were very much a part of.

    • shelly says:

      I agree, its very disappointing.

    • AmunetMa'at says:

      Exactly, they could have fredia as a supporting character, and the lead should have been a black British woman.

    • pinetree13 says:


    • ash says:

      Girl that how they do…. even our own men… push this erasure narrative and then try to explain it away. What if we had done a slave revolt movie and only had white abolitionists and and black women… and no mention of Nat Turner or other prolific black men who fought and led the great fight …..we’d be shamed to the ground called traitors (whatev that means, now)

      I literally will boycott this, i am tired as a black woman of the erasure narrative and efforts to place us (once in the background) not out of the main story.

  16. KLO says:

    I agree that being called “black” is not exclusive to to people of african heritage all around the world. I come from an eastern European country, and here we had no african people about 30-40 years ago. None. You could see one maybe once a year and it was an event.

    But due to the Soviet occupation “repopulation” the government brought in some people from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and the like, and they were called “blacks” here because they had black hair and darker skin. It was somewhat derogatory because many of the people didnt know how to use a toilet and had vastly different eating habits etc. It wasnt nice but it happened.

    So, yeah, you do not have to be african to be called “black”. USA is not the whole world, people.

    • Duzan says:

      What problems did you encounter with the new people being brought in to the country?

      • KLO says:

        @Duzan the new asian poeple did not cause any problems, in real everyday life everybody was pretty much fine with them.
        The problem was the russification attempt of the original culture and the genocide and deportation (holocaust-style) that had happened before it.
        Before the occupation we had 5 % ethnic russian speakers, at the en of it 25%. All this happened in 50 years.

    • Daisy says:

      I find that interesting because in my country the term “white” is much broader than in the US, for an example, people from the Middle East are white.

      • Nn says:

        What country would that be, Daisy? Because I’m in Europe and middle easterners are definitely not considered white here…Remember race is a social construct so it might as well just be about phenotypes at this point because people treat you the way you look.
        the white label has always been fluid. Back in the day irish were not white, in their identification papers it simply said irish.same with Italians and Jews. Race is political and the wasps had much to gain by giving Italians and Jews the white label. It was about upping their numbers.

      • KLO says:

        @Daisy I get that, to me middle eastern people are “white” also. Because 95 % of the population here is white europeans, I didnt even know that the term “colored people” existed before I heard about it after 2000 watching american television.
        Because where I live, ethnicity is discussed by the country someone comes from – for example, not “east asian”, but “chinese”, or “japanese”, or “korean” etc, not by race.
        The only group that is usually lumped together are “sub-saharan”-looking people with african heritage.

    • Blimey says:

      It’s a series based in UK the seventies. I lived in the UK in the seventies and Indian/ Pakistani people were not refered to as black or the N word. They were refered to as Asian or the P word. Caribbean and African people were refered to as black or the N word. This is a fact ask any one who lived in those times.

      • KLO says:

        @Blimey yeah thats what I thought too. Some commenters here seem to disagree though, which is interesting. I am not one to say how things were because I didnt live it.

      • Sixer says:

        Nobody is suggesting they were.

        What people are suggesting, and seem to be quite clear about, is that in ACTIVIST CIRCLES, there was a concept of political blackness, which encompassed all non-white activists.

        Nothing to do with the wider society or ethnic signifiers in general use or racist epithets used by racists.

  17. shelly says:

    I have never called an Asian person, black they are not what I think of when I think of a black person.
    And I don’t know anyone else in my neck of the woods who thinks that they are part of the same ethnic group.

    Of course they all experienced prejudice, as have Chinese, Irish, etc. but I truly believe black Britons suffered the most. I was never aware of Black people and Asians being particularly close, when I was growing up in Battersea in the 70′s. They tended to stay in their own groups and rarely mixed together in my experience.

    Of course people who were involved in activism may well have banded together in common cause. It just seems a bit off to me, not to have a black woman in a prominent role in this.
    The straighter haired, paler skinned girl gets the gig, yet again.

  18. Kate says:

    Of course black men are behind this nonsense. They want us to fight for them, to uplift them and when they finally have a seat at the table, they make sure that a white woman, an Indian woman,… anyone but a black woman, is sitting next to them.
    Black ladies, we only have ourselves.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      I have to admit, I’ve begun to understand why some black women get upset over black men dating/marrying white women. Not to say that I agree but I don’t have a right to get upset at black women either because from that perspective … yeah. It’s not coming out of nowhere.

      • Nn says:

        Black Women aren’t upset that black men date or marry white and other non black women. They are upset because often times they say deragatory things about black women instead of just going on their merry way.
        It seems they have to bring black women into it. Its all over social media and popular media.
        Or they erase them from history, just like Ridley did in his other movie ‘red tails’.
        Or they fail to give them credit. Not many people know BLM was started by three black women, not many know the huge part black women played in the civil rights movement and the black panthers.
        They were the movers and shakers of all the important events in history but rarely if ever get credit for it. It’s awful.

      • Nicole says:

        @Nn you nailed it. Its not the “dating other races” that is an issue. I’m cool with everyone dating who they want if they are happy and fulfilled. But these same black men will disrespect a black woman over and over because he “upgraded” to a different race. As if he wasn’t raise by a black woman and therefore disrespecting his mom at the same time.

      • Blimey says:

        It’s not about what colour they prefer to date. I’m in an interracial marriage myself. It’s about the hatred they spew towards black women-(go on you tube and any social media site and you will see that the ones spewing the most hatred towards black women are are not racist white males as you would expect its actually black men. The brothers, sons and fathers of black women. Their channels are heavily subscribed by other black men all taking a shots at black women.) Very very few black men come to the black woman’s defence. When black women need support black men generally chose look the other way. Yet when something bad happens to a black man the black women are at the front of the protest. Black men expect loyalty but give very little in return. ‘One sided loyalty is for suckers’-I think a woman called asha b said this and
        I couldn’t agree more.

  19. Akku says:

    I don’t know why there are so many comments sh*tting on Freida. She, an Asian woman, accepted a role written for an Asian woman. Perhaps we should aim our disappointment at the writer, producers and director instead for erasing our contributions instead of heaping criticism at the door of an actress who despite her fairly decent name recognition is a jobbing actress who can’t really turn down roles and is certainly not big-league enough to ask them to change/expand the script.

    • Goldie says:

      Where are the comments sh*tting on Freida? Almost all of the the commenters that I’ve seen on this post have gone out of their way to say that they DON’T blame her.

      • Akku says:

        My mistake in not stating that those comments were endemic in other discussions I’ve read about this. I meant as a general discussion rather than here specifically. Apologies for the misunderstanding, English is not my first language so I sometimes screw up the nuance (here vs there; general vs specific; etc.).

      • Goldie says:

        No worries Akku :) .

    • Nn says:

      Exactly. If anything people have gone out of their way to coddle her.
      If a black actress played the lead in an Indian movie about a historical event with no Indian women and only Indian men, she would hardly be coddled and made a victim. People would attack her and you know it.

    • Madailein says:

      I don’t see those comments you mention that are putting down Frida? I don’t see people here taking her to task for choosing this part at a time when roles for non Caucasian women are still so scarce. Sadly, in the white, male dominated art field of movies it’s very hard to get a good role as a woman in film, and even more difficult if you are a woman of color. Because there was much prejudice in the U.K. against Indians and Pakistanis (sadly, still is some) as well as against Africans and other “non whites,” this movie sounds really relevant and important. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to have an Indian actress in the lead female role, since it is not about exclusively African-American civil rights, but of the long term discrimination against minorities in Britain. I think it sounds intriguing, I’m going to see it.

  20. Magdalene says:

    John has always been an ass. His feud with Steve Mcqueen is so real that if you want to work with Steve, you can’t work with John.
    I’m linking an essay he wrote for Esquire in 2006-2007, he really is a horrible person.

    • jmacky says:

      wow. i just read that article. speedily scanned because some of it was so ugly. i have…no…words. interesting comments below the rant.

      in tone, Ridley seemed like Papa Pope from Scandal left in an insane asylum after this season, with only an old copy of Time magazine from the W. Bush era to read and then formulate an entire American race-political manifesto from it…there’s some deep hatred in that piece.

  21. Ashley Nate says:

    I heard about this last month, and was disgusted. It’s not getting good comments on YouTube either. F#ck Elba and his company for promoting this embarrassing sellout f#ckery. This 6 part show is going bomb and I’ll be laughing

  22. Her H!gn3ss says:

    its sad as black women we are not even good enough to play black women in historical films. disgusts me.

  23. Nn says:

    Why did they insert freida face on a black woman with an afro on the poster for the series promo if she is supposed to play Indian?

    • Jeesie says:

      I think you might have seen something someone mocked up in response to this? In all the posters and promo materials I can find Freida is shown with long straight hair.

  24. Nn says:

    Freida knows about erasure. Right now in her home country India they have pretty much erased Indian women from their movie industry bollywood and replaced them with white women! Freida can’t even get a job in Bollywood due to her skin color not being white enough. She if anyone should know about colorism, she even did commercials for fair and lovely as the before girl.

  25. Moon says:

    Freida’s character is based on an actual Indian woman who was part of the resistance. Ridley wanted to highlight that other minorities were also repressed and were part of the fight. I don’t see what’s wrong with presenting actual historical fact.

    • Elle says:

      Imagine a women’s march film with major roles for only Black women, Latinas, and White men. No White women or only supporting roles for them. Would that be historical accurate? I think not. Accuracy requires correct proportion.

      • Moon says:

        I’m not sure if you made the white women omission reference because you think I’m white, I’m actually Asian. Asians were a part of this movement too, and black actresses re very much part of the main cast. Why do people want to relegate Asian people to second best? Or are they unhappy because an Asian person is the love interest?

      • Jeesie says:

        It actually doesn’t. If you’re making a broader documentary, then yes. If you’re making a film focusing on a specific story and a handful of people, then no, you don’t have to jam in extra leads just to get the correct ratios, because that’s not the story you’re telling.

        This mini-series doesn’t have a particularly big cast for a 6-parter, so it looks like it’s going to show a fairly contained story about a few particular people from a few particular groups.

  26. kerfuffles says:

    I think it’s a total false equivalency to state that this is like casting Reese Witherspoon as the lead in a movie about Rosa Parks. Reese Witherspoon is a blonde white lady and would have never faced racial discrimination in the Rosa Parks era. While and Indian woman would have faced racial discrimination like a black person in the era the movie is made.

    I agree it’s problematic not to cast a black woman in the lead in a movie about a black power movement, but it’s not so extreme that it’s like casting Reese Witherspoon in the role.

  27. Alexis says:

    I think a lot of this could be avoided if there was also a black female lead. Then, it wouldn’t feel like “replacing” black women in this struggle, instead, it would be recognizing the (historically accurate) Asian experience in this struggle. Hell, they could have also featured an Asian man, as well.

  28. Veronica says:

    My first reaction: NO THEY DID NOT.

    Second reaction: Okay, let’s make sure this isn’t as bad as it actually looks. Is her character actually black or are their other minorities being represented in this movement that she’s based on?

  29. Ayra. says:

    *pretends to be shocked*

  30. New_Kay says:

    I did my graduate degree in London and i remember the first day my Indian professor saying we ‘blacks’. I was sooo confused. But it was explained to me that in the 60s and 70s in the UK if you were brown you were black. So the struggle was fought together. Blacks and Indians two of the largest minorities worked together. So her casting for this particular story doesn’t offend me. The producers could do a better job of explaining the history so people understand.

    • Nn says:

      I am sorry but were you there in the 70s? I don’t know why people think there were some sort of black and Indian kumbaya love fest between the two groups. These were fringe groups with only a few active Indian participants involved and it was to further their own agendas, not in some solidarity movement with black people. They never referred to themselves as black. This revisionist attempt to whitewash history is disturbing to me.

      • Sixer says:

        I wasn’t there in the 70s but I remember very well from the 80s onwards as members of my family were quite involved in anti-racist action as white allies. Nobody is saying that the various communities didn’t remain pretty distinct in daily life. People are saying the ACTIVIST MOVEMENTS were highly interconnected. Which they were. Because they faced the same problems: police brutality, far-right racist attack, access to housing, closed shop discriminatory employment.

      • Jeesie says:

        I was there and a part of some of the more prominent groups. Indian/Pakistani and Afro-Carribean activist groups were extremely interconnected and political blackness was a thing. This isn’t at all a revising of history.

      • Sixer says:

        Jeesie – it’s a shame this thread has become so contentious cos I’d love to hear your stories about your involvement. My parents and wider family were Labour activists and door-knockers for the Labour GLC in the early 80s, which is how they became involved on the fringes of these movements as white allies.

  31. Horsforth says:

    As someone who grew up in England during this time, I would have as much considered a packi (from pakistan/ india/ bangladesh) as black as I would have someone from the West Indies. I was lectured frequently about the challenges of mixed race families (i.e. people of mixed race do not fit in anywhere). Non-whites were not distinguished based on ethnicity, other than asians (who I never saw growing up). I also saw very few West Indians as I grew up in Northern England and outside of city centres, there were very few.

    What’s more important, reflecting the reality of the then times, or the political correctness of today? 40 years ago, there was little to no nuance in the black vs. white debate in the UK. You were white or you weren’t and the nuances of where you came from were largely irrelevant.

    I think a lot of the posters here are looking at this program through the lens of a US narrative. This is a historical based drama series based in the UK, where the experience of race is different to the US.

    • HK9 says:

      While I’m Canadian, I have relatives that immigrated to England during the ’50s & ’60s and were there for this period of time. It has nothing to do with today’s political correctness or a US view. I’m well aware of what it was like there. The point is, black women played a central role and from this representation, they are all but erased from this story. That’s an issue, because that’s not how it happened. It’s like having the black men in the series being represented by East Indian actors and saying well everyone called us black then so it doesn’t matter. It does.

      • Horsforth says:

        Isn’t the whole point that both Asians and West Indians played a role? Isn’t the casting and character choice a reflection of that?

      • HK9 says:

        In a word-no. Not if you’re going to erase the vital contributions that were made by black women. Black British women supported this movement all day every day during this time. No one is going to watch this series and come away knowing that and that’s the bottom line. It’s important that it’s documented and black directors/producers have a bad habit of erasing the contributions of black women and it has to stop. I’m not saying Asians shouldn’t be included-they should be because they were there, but that’s not the whole story and we all know that.

    • sanders says:

      Many of us commenting are able to acknowledge that black women should be prominently represented in these series while also holding the view that it makes sense to include asians as this was a struggle that impacted both communities. Both communities organized and resisted, separately and together. Sixer and I have provided links that acknowledge this.
      Does this mean that all Indians are free from anti-black prejudice? No, I’m aware of that but I also know that all South Asians are not prejudiced. I have also been treated unfairly, based on anti-indian prejudice, by members of the afro-carribbean and somali communities. It hurt, but I moved on and remain hopeful for more positive experiences, which I have also had. This is the nature of living in a multicultural society. There is good and bad and we are all negotiating our place in a white dominant culture.

      My husband and I have worked with black activists in Canada to address issues that impacted them as well as ourselves. Maybe if you have not had this life experience, it’s hard to imagine that it can happen or there are people who can empathize with issues that may not directly impact them. I can easily imagine that this happened in the 70′s in the UK.

  32. First time commenting here (yay!). Ok, after reading many of these comments trying to parse the “hierarchy” of racial/ethnic struggle some things have come to my mind: Who is the oppressor in the narrative of this particular history? Is there a particular ethnic group we are looking at as being suppressive? Also, in this whole debate about who was considered ‘black’ is anyone asking why ‘blackness’ is indisputably equated with the lowest social demarcation? If so, what does that mean to be physically/phenotypically ‘black’? In my experiences many Asians balk at the thought of darker skin as being prized or valued. So, how does colorism influence and affect casting? What stories are being told and by whom?

    I’d argue that most of you already know, intuitively, what the problem is with this casting. As someone mentioned earlier there is an elision of darker-skinned black women within entertainment (and it has existed since the beginning, i.e. Oscar Micheaux films, the Lena Hornes, Fredi Washingtons, and Dottie Dandridges) as dignified protagonists in film and television. As they say, “Light and bright and you’re all right.” It happens consciously and unconsciously by many, but if you want to point out Problem D with so and so I would think one should be at least cognizant of Problems A, B, and C.

  33. pbn says:

    She doesn’t have any business to play the lead in a movie about the black power movement. Are y’all creazy?? And oh, someone should explain me this madness too: Why did they represent Freida as a black woman? The black woman’s erasure is real.

    And I side eye Freida, who talked about colorism before, but doesn’t have any issue with it, as long as she’s not a victim of it.

    John Ridley has an issue with black women. A fewyears ago, he wrote a screenplay (Raid Tails), and they were no black women in it. I mean, in what world?

    I wonder why he didn’t used an indian man instead of a black man. John knows what he’s doing.

  34. Ashley Nate says:

    Have Dev Patel represent a black leader and be one of the main characters, see where that gets you….Yea didn’t think so. Black men would never pull some asinine ish like that, but are more than happy to do it to their own women <_<