Why Being Mary Jane's Dani Is So Triggering

Photo: Courtesy of BET.
Being Mary Jane is pretty hard to watch these days. Mary Jane (Gabrielle Union) seems to only be getting more basic and misguided with age, and it’s extremely trying on the nerves to watch her make the same mistakes over and over again. This week, she is acting out because Kara (Lisa Duval) is mad at her, and Justin (Michael Ealy) is away. She snoops through Justin’s belongings while he’s gone and goes off on one of her coworkers. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. When Mary Jane is forced into a difficult situation with her new co-worker Dani (Victoria Staley), I’m completely on her side.
Dani is a Tomi Lahren inspired new hire at Good Day USA. In other words, she’s a pretty white girl with some ugly political opinions about people of color. After engaging in forcefully friendly conversation with Mary Jane as a guest on the show, the producer thought that Dani would add some necessary diversity to Good Day USA as a permanent anchor. Her being very blonde and traditionally attractive also played a part. But by opening their arms to Dani, and her racism, the network created an extremely toxic work environment for Mary Jane.
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After she overhears Dani implying that Justin — a Good Day USA producer who is light-skinned with green eyes — is smart because he might have a white parent, Mary Jane lets her have it (and not just because Justin is Mary Jane’s boo). You need to see it for yourself to get the full effect, but you should know that Mary Jane’s tirade ended with, “shut the hell up, you ill-mannered, overprivileged, undereducated simpleton.” And while Dani deserves every bit of this venom, I’m pretty sure Mary Jane also violated at least one HR rule by speaking to her in that way. So, to add insult to injury, our protagonist is forced to apologise in front of the entire team in order to prevent any negative press.
One of my biggest problems with Lahren is that so many platforms give her the time and space to spew her bigotry to the masses. That Mary Jane’s network has decided that Dani’s position on the issues is entertaining and sure to bring in more viewers is both frustrating and heartbreaking. The opinions of people like Dani — and her real-life counterpart — have harmful consequences for people of colour. They promote the ideologies that have resulted in institutionalised racism and disenfranchisement. They justify violence against us. There should be no room for them on anyone’s national platform.
On an interpersonal level, introducing casual racism into the workplace is unnecessarily triggering for the people of colour who work there. Despite the fact that so many of us already do, Black people should not have to grapple with other people’s racial biases at work. And even though we certainly know how to, policing our language and behaviours in the face of said racism simply replicates the power imbalance that makes it wrong. Sure, Mary Jane handled her situation with Dani poorly. But in reality, she shouldn’t have to handle it at all.