When Riverdale first premiered 2017, they made a huge deal about their “diversity,” proudly showing off their Latina, Black, and queer leads on all of their marketing materials.
But the Black characters were quickly written off or sidelined — the Pussycats mysteriously disappeared and Josie McCoy was relegated to the background until they eventually cut her lose so she could go star in Katy Keene. It wasn’t long before Riverdale was a prime example of tokenism.
When they introduced Vanessa Morgan‘s character Toni Topaz in season 2, it seemed that Riverdale would finally invest in a Black lead. But Toni’s entire personality seems to revolve solely around her girlfriend Cheryl Blossom and it’s clear the writers haven’t fully thought out her character.
And now Vanessa is tired of being silent. After a twitter user accused Vanessa’s former co-star Ashleigh Murray of being “a diva,” claiming that was the reason they wrote her off the show, Vanessa instantly took to Twitter to defend her. She tweeted,
“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about and don’t talk about my friend like that. Another thing I hate BLACK women being called DIVAS for sticking up for themselves. Maybe the show should write for her like the white characters. You picked the wrong day get off my page.”
Vanessa reiterated those same sentiments in a statement posted earlier that day and wrote,
“Tired of us also being used as sidekick, non-dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show. It starts with the media. I’m not being quiet anymore.”
Vanessa couldn’t be more right. When the media constantly portrays Black people as “dangerous” or “aggressive,” it trickles down into what people believe (either consciously or subconsciously) about Black people in real life. It’s the reason why the police treat Black people differently than white people and it’s definitely the reason they can get away with it.
It’s also the reason why Black Lives Matter protesters are called “rioters” and “thugs” and yet white people bitching about not being able to get a haircut in the midst of a pandemic can walk around with machine guns and still be called “good people.”
So, thank you, Vanessa Morgan, for refusing to be quiet, for standing up for fellow Black women, and for saying what we all know to be true.