“Master of None’s” Lena Waithe reminds us that there are “no sides” with Aziz Ansari’s allegations

Lena Waithe — who writes for and stars in Master of None and created her own news series, The Chi — is known for her authentic voice. She is the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing; her sharp perspective kicked Master of None and other projects she’s worked on to another level. Now, she’s using that nuanced voice to tackle a complicated issue: the sexual misconduct allegations against Aziz Ansari, her colleague and friend, and the conversations they’ve provoked.

The discussions surrounding the Babe article, in which one woman claims Ansari sexually assaulted her, have been so emotionally charged, Saturday Night Live included a sketch in last week’s show that centered on a group of friends fruitlessly trying to talk about it. In an interview on California’s KPCC, Lena Waithe made a similar observation.

"Here’s the truth — in every situation, it’s not always black-and-white. And I know that’s simple for people, and it’s easy for people to [ask], Whose side are you on? There are no sides, really, in some of these scenarios," Waithe told the station.

"I’m not on Harvey Weinstein’s side, I’m not on Kevin Spacey’s side. But I think you have to take each situation [individually]. You can’t just say, Well, I’m on this person’s team or I’m on that person’s team. It doesn’t work that way."

While she could have gone further to specifically address Aziz’s case or even to defend the woman, called Grace in the article, and other women who’ve found themselves in gray-area consent situations, Waithe did raise a powerful point about having conversations about what consent really means.

We won’t get anywhere, she explained, if these kinds of topics aren’t explored in detail.

What Ansari is alleged to have done may appear to be entirely different to some people than what Harvey Weinstein or Louis C.K. did, but all these stories are different expressions of the same toxic social and sexual structures put in place for years. And we can’t break down those faulty structures until we understand how they were built and reinforced in the first place.

"I think there’s an element of — how do you know if you’re breaking a rule if you aren’t aware of the rules? Or how do you know what appropriate behavior is if no one’s ever communicated to you what appropriate behavior is?" Waithe said. "Even though some people may assume, 'Well, of course we all know what appropriate behavior is,' but some people may not know."

Ansari has been laying pretty low since news of these allegations broke last month. Lena Waithe, on the other hand, has been promoting her new series, The Chi, which is about her hometown and debuted on Showtime earlier this month.

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