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Yes, even 'woke' boys can be problematic. The case of Hasan Minhaj shows us how.

Hasan Minhaj has been accused of creating a toxic workplace on the set of his Netflix show 'Patriot Act.'

Yes, even 'woke' boys can be problematic. The case of Hasan Minhaj shows us how.
Image Source: Getty Images/ 13th Annual Stand Up For Heroes. (Photo by John Lamparski)

We all enjoyed Hasan Minhaj's hot takes on his hit Netflix show Patriot Act. There was nothing like watching him attack Donald Trump or an oppressive tax regime that only benefits the wealthy in a quick one-liner. You would assume that someone with such progressive views would extend these views into their actions in daily life, right? Well, you would be wrong. In a scathing takedown of Minhaj's lack of commitment to gender equality in the workplace, activist and writer Sangeetha developed a detailed account of the toxic work culture that was prevalent behind the scenes of his show. And wouldn't you know it, that work culture impacted women of color worst.

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She reflects on the several tweets posted by South Asian women about the discrimination they faced. The tweets arose at a time when employees of The Ellen Degeneres Show were speaking up about their own toxic workplace as a display of solidarity. Sheila Vee, a former producer, was the first to do so. Sangeetha explains, "[Vee] tweeted about her experience, only to go on to protect her tweets. That is understandable. After all, Minhaj is beloved by the 'woke' Desis, and the social justice crowd in general. She was making herself a target by telling the truth."

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This is the protection that "woke boys" receive. Since they build a facade of allyship, anyone who pokes holes in their veneers of solidarity is met with disbelief. Those who highlight their complicity are attacked, their experiences invalidated, and their hopes of ever achieving justice eliminated. Of course, woke boys are more dangerous than men who are openly sexist. They are chameleons in the circles of social justice, blanketing themselves in the shtick of comradeship. When you add degrees of oppression, like race or sexuality, the problem is only exacerbated. Such is the case with Minhaj. This is not to say that his experiences as a South Asian man are not important, they definitely are. It is, however, about intersectionality. While he may have experienced his fair share of discrimination, how does he use his straight, cis, male privilege to do good?

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Apparently, he doesn't. After Vee came forward, others did too. Pakistani news producer and writer Nur Nasreen was one of them, as Sangeetha highlights. "Nasreen’s point about a progressive ethos in front of the screen versus the hypocrisy of how un-progressively you treat the women of color who work under you has really stuck with me," she writes. "It is because, in my experience, this is what most social justice spaces have been like. For women like me, who have neither pretty or thin privilege, or light-skin or class privilege, social justice “activists” shun [us] because I do not have the connections and networks that they want access to in order to further their careers."

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When all these women came forward, you would have expected someone like Minhaj to act. And that's totally what happened! Not. Sangeetha questions, "Minhaj was not taken to task. Nothing happened to the show. It was canceled on its own, and a slew of articles on how sad people were about the cancellation came out instead. Minhaj did not even acknowledge the tweets, let alone apologize or take any responsibility for what had happened. Where was the outrage? Where was the outcry?" The Patriot Act host, like Ellen, got a huge pass simply because of the personality he had built. That's not okay. Those in social justice circles should take an intersectional approach and truly be committed to justice. Even if that means killing their darlings.

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