Actress Candice Patton can recall a time when racist attacks online were a regular part of her day. Patton has starred as Iris West, the Black lead, on CW’s “The Flash” since 2014. Her casting is one of many indicating Hollywood got the memo that diversity and inclusivity are the new standard.
But for Patton, being among the first Black actors cast in a comic book television series meant dealing with a new wave of racist criticisms. “It’s just not enough to make me your lead female and say, ‘Look at us, we’re so progressive, we checked the box,’” said Patton on “The Open Up Podcast.”
She added, “It’s great, but you’ve put me in the ocean alone around sharks. It’s great to be in the ocean, but I can get eaten alive out here.” Instead, Patton said studios and their executives need to find a way to support Black talent.
“There has to be people in positions of power who understand my experience and understand the Black experience and the Black female experience who can say, ‘Ok she needs protection,’” said Patton. “Any time you hire a minority of any kind you have to be prepared to protect them. In the real world, we are not protected,” she added.
Nearly a decade after “The Flash” premiered, Patton can finally say Hollywood is acknowledging that remaining silent while Black actors face an onslaught of racist attacks from fans is not acceptable. In several instances, studios have spoken out to condemn fans’ racial remarks regarding casting.
Still, Patton said there is more work to be done when educating her colleagues of the realities of racism. “When I step on a set and everyone working around me is white, I’m not protected and I will never be protected,” said the actress. “And that’s not to say everyone has bad intentions, but they have blind spots that can contribute to my harm,” she further explained.