“Orange is the New Black” cast tackles antiracism
Eleven actresses from the show took part in an hour-long livestream featuring some of the leading voices on antiracism in the U.S.
The Netflix original show, Orange Is The New Black, has always highlighted issues of racism within the justice system. On June 11, 11 actresses from the show teamed up for an hour-long livestream anti-racism conversation on Youtube entitled Reform. Solidarity. Action.
The video was designed to bring awareness to systemic racism and to call fans of the show to take action.
The actresses that took part were Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Taylor Schilling, Natasha Lyonne, Yael Stone, Laura Prepon, Dascha Polanco, Selenis Leyva, Laverne Cox, Adrienne C. Moore and Kate Mulgrew.
The featured guests were the President of Color of Change, Rashad Robinson, author and activist, Rachel Cargle, former Democratic leader of the Georgia House, Stacey Abrams, Yale University Law and History professor, Dr. Elizabeth Hinton, and Founder of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, Andrea James J.D.
Robinson explained that “defunding the police” doesn’t necessarily mean less safety, but re-allocating resources into Black and Brown communities that are often lacking in things like education and healthcare.
“When someone is homeless, we send someone with a gun, when a kid is not showing up to school, we send someone with a gun, when someone is having a mental health episode, we send someone with a gun, and that has not worked,” he said.
Lyonne said she relates heavily to her character Nikki, who is struggling with addiction, as she is currently in recovery. She reflected on how the war on drugs was never about drugs, but about race. Lyonne emphasized that White people are allowed to be victims, but Black people are only seen as criminals for the same issues.
Polanco announced that she became an ambassador for the Innocence Project, an organization that exonerates the wrongfully convicted through DNA testing and works to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustices.
Dr. Hinton educated the viewers on the roots of policing in America, and how it’s always been about maintaining the social order of white supremacy.
Mulgrew said that race is a White problem and that “there is no neutrality in the racism struggle.”
Cargle joined the conversation by introducing the framework by which she teaches anti-racism.
It involves “critical knowledge, radical empathy, and intentional action.” She wants people to be aware that it is more beneficial to receive their anti-racism information from Black voices, rather than White people profiting off of the information.
She also encouraged people to move beyond passive empathy, and reflect on how White people benefit from the systems that are hurting Black people.
She wants people to go from being an “ally” to an “accomplice” and work to upend those very systems.
Leyva, Brooks and Stone then talked about how their motherhood intersects with their own activism.
Brooks, a Black woman with a six month old daughter, broke down in tears when she spoke about raising a child in a world that’s so terrifying.
The video ended with the actresses thanking the viewers for tuning in and encouraging them to take action by signing petitions, protesting, having those uncomfortable conversations with friends and family members and donating to Color of Change, the Poussey Washington Fund or the Innocence Project.
“You can be a character in the story of change. You have a strength inside of you and we will be inspired by all the ways you go out and you use it,” Aduba said.