Many of us have experienced the vitriol of cyberbullying. It’s everywhere on social media with marginalized groups taking the brunt of these attacks. Black women and women of color are popular victims of online harassment. Not only are we harassed because we are women, we are harassed because we are women of color. Thus, misogynoir is part of our daily virtual interactions.
Targeted social media harassment is a given for Black women in the spotlight, whether we’re actresses, activists, politicians, journalists, socialites, or athletes. Read any article featuring Serena Williams, Meghan Markle, or Maxine Waters and you’ll see some of the worst vitriol on the internet.
Actress Candice Patton knows all too well what if feels like to be a Black woman on social media. She experiences targeted harassment on the daily, especially as a black actress playing a role that’s been race-bent from a white woman to a black woman. When Patton was first cast as Iris West on The CW’s Flash, the online outrage from racist trolls was tremendous. Patton persisted though, putting her all in her role as Iris West-Allen. As Iris, Patton serves as Team Flash’s fearless leader, solving problems that have baffled both HR Wells and Cisco Ramon. She’s Barry Allen’s rock, and the chemistry between her and Grant Gustin is positively sweet. As Patton, the actress battles online racism, calling out trolls and throwing down major smackdowns like she did recently when a Twitter user came on her TL spewing hate towards black women in interracial relations, calling the men in these relationships losers.
Just in case he deletes his tweet. pic.twitter.com/UrTmoh21xy
— David Atchison (@DavidNAtchison) March 23, 2018
She followed the tweet by boosting the tweets of fans in interracial relationships or fans that have interracial families.
Im also a proud loser who can't get a white woman. pic.twitter.com/B7inKv5GL6
— Houston Rhines (@HoustonRhines) March 22, 2018
— Ann Scott (@awscott21) March 22, 2018
Thankfully, there are just as many fans of The Flash and Patton as there are trolls, which no doubt motivates Patton in her role as Iris and empowers her to wield a weapon that terrifies racists; providing representation and diversity in an industry that has largely been dominated by white actors and actresses.
It’s obvious in her interviews and at Q&A’s that representation and diversity is important to the actress. In a recent interview with the Nerdist via the talk show, Fangirling, Patton talks about how she is not only stoked on the diversity of the show’s characters but is very proud that she gets to represent an interracial relationship on television.
“I love that we have an interracial relationship on the show, and that it’s not questioned, and that it’s healthy and normal, and functional,” she says in the interview. She also delves into the diversity of the show, stating that “Seeing that kind of diversity would have been important to me. I like watching shows where I’m like, this looks like my grocery store. You know, it’s diverse. I see different types of people and all different types of love.”
With her fierce determination to represent what she wished had been on television as a child, Patton does what many WoC do; we push forward through the hate with a determination that has sustained us for the last 500 years. This isn’t to say that we don’t require self-care and protection from social media vitriol. It just means that many of us, just like Patton, grit our teeth and make it through the best that we can while trying to fulfill our goals while calling out those that would have us believe that we don’t belong, that our relationships aren’t valid or important (whether they be interracial or not).
With that being said, The Flash is not a perfect show, and it is by no means defeating racism in this country by having a white Barry Allen and a black Iris West-Allen. What it is doing is providing interracial families with some representation. And sometimes, that’s all that matters to the quirky kid with the white dad and black mom that enjoys cheesy CW superhero shows on Tuesday nights. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
Want to watch the full Candice Patton interview? You can stream it through the streaming platform, Alpha. Just enter the code ‘fangirling’ and you’ll have a full month of free access!
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Jahkotta Lewis is a professional archaeologist specializing in Pacific Island archaeology. When she’s not documenting historic and pre-Contact cultural sites, she spends her days hiking through native forests, and hanging at the beach with her three beautiful sons and husband. She also enjoys writing short afro-futuristic stories, engaging the Twitter community, and watching/reading all things fantasy and science fiction. See what she’s up to on Twitter @jahkotta