Monday's Good Morning America chose to discuss the totally expected, racist backlash to the news that Zendaya will be playing Mary Jane Watson in Sony and Marvel's upcoming movie Spider-Man: Homecoming.
GMA anchors Amy Robach and George Stephanopoulos sat down with "entertainment expert" (and former People editor) Larry Hackett for what easily could have been an insightful panel about how the toxic parts of a fandom can hold back and hurt the properties they claim to love. Instead, though, the discussion was a masterclass in how not to talk about race-related outrage on national television.
Things were awkward enough given that there were no people of color involved in a conversation about how a black actress was being attacked for doing her job, but the segment fell apart when Robach tried to make sense of the controversy.
— ZsaVette Ellis-Frye (@ZsaZsa_ATL) August 22, 2016
"We all know Hollywood has received recent and quite a bit of criticism for casting white actors in what one might assume should be a role for colored people," Robach said to Hackett. "Is this potentially the industry trying to right itself? Doing something right?"
One imagines that Robach was attempting to link the current story about Zendaya to similar casting controversies, like Scarlett Johansson's role in Ghost In The Shell (or Tilda Swinton in Dr. Strange, or as Hackett brings up, Matt Damon in The Great Wall and Emma Stone in Aloha), but instead managed to out herself as someone who might casually (if mistakenly) refer to people of color as "colored people."
For those not in the know, "colored people" is an offensive term once popularly used during the era of racial segregation when the n-word became déclassé to say in mixed company. It's the sort of thing you don't call people in 2016 because it suggests a degree of anachronistic racism.
Almost immediately after her on-air gaffe, Robach released a statement apologizing for her words and insisting that she'd meant to say "people of color," the non-racist term that we use to refer to folks who aren't white. The moment, Roback said, was “not at all a reflection of how I feel or speak in my everyday life.”