Master of None star Lena Waithe had a few strong words today for Hollywood’s repeat-offending sexual harassers and the culture of complicity that enables them. Speaking at an event in New York as part of the Fast Company Innovation Festival, Waithe said society will never truly reckon with the Harvey Weinsteins and the Bill Cosbys of the world until people realize that the problem is deeper than the news story du jour. Only through sustained action, she said, will we enact meaningful change in the culture.
“We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face,” Waithe told the crowd. “We’ve been talking about it. I think there’s been very little doing.”
She also spoke of the need for “male allies” to call out bad behavior when they see it and, more importantly, to not behave badly themselves. “You look at men in these positions and say, ‘Don’t be a dick,'” she said.
Waithe made history earlier this year when she became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing—for the Thanksgiving episode of Master of None. The episode is set on different Thanksgiving Days over a 20-year period and based on Waithe’s experience coming out to her mom.
Speaking at the event today, Waithe said she was optimistic about the power of narrative storytelling to broaden people’s cultural perspectives, but she lamented that society at large often seems as if it would rather pretend longstanding systemic issues like racism and sexism don’t exist.
“It’s like an invisible problem,” Waithe said. “It exists but it’s easy to act as if it isn’t there. So I think that we, as a society, in my opinion, we need to stop acting like racism and sexism are imaginary friends—and realize, they’re a real boy. You can touch them.”