Tyler Perry is best known for making movies and TV shows that focus on black characters, but last year the filmmaker premiered “Too Close To Home,” a show featuring a predominantly white cast. Following its August 2016 premiere, the TLC drama received backlash from black social media users for having only a few black actors, compared to its mainly white leads.
Perry dismissed the criticism early on, but last week, ahead of the show’s return from hiatus on Wednesday, January 4, he weighed in again, declaring that the backlash is just “reverse racism.”
“[It’s] totally reverse racism, because [the criticism] was coming from African-American people,” Perry told the Associated Press on Dec. 30, speaking of the backlash.
“I don’t know if it was because they thought I should only be giving jobs to black people. Well, I think that’s ridiculous. If you look at the hundreds of black people I’ve given jobs to and even the ones I’ve made millionaires, people of color, I just think it’s unfair,” he said.
The 47-year-old filmmaker added that after traveling the world and meeting more people, he realized “we’re all the same.”
“We all got the same dramas. So I’m not seeing color as much as I did anymore in the sense of our stories. Our stories are so similar,” he added.
Perry’s response is similar to one he stated in an August interview on the Tom Joyner show. At the time, he said he was “so sick” of explaining why his show had a mostly white cast.
“What the hell? Nobody asked Norman Lear why he wrote for black people all those years,” Perry explained at the time. “Stop asking me that damn question. People are people.”
Perry is right. Black filmmakers should be allowed to explore and tell new stories without facing criticism, especially when their white counterparts often have free reign to cast whoever they want.
And black filmmakers like Spike Lee, known for his movies focused on the black experience, has made equally great films with white leads including “25th Hour” and “Inside Man.” So criticizing Perry for having one show with more white than black actors while ignoring the mostly black casts in his past and future projects is ridiculous.
That being said, Perry ruins his defense by blaming the backlash on “reverse racism.” “Reverse racism” is largely a myth; a tricky term that falsely equates racism and prejudice. Racism is a concept that operates on both an individual and systemic level, and the exclusion of white actors throughout the film and television industry is most definitely not systemic. So yes, the ongoing backlash Perry faces may be unnecessary and even unfair, but “reverse racism?” That’s still not a thing.