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Lena Waithe on Aziz Ansari Allegations: 'It's Not Always Black and White'

Lena Waithe

Waithe, the out creator of The Chi and creative partner of Ansari, said conversations about inappropriate behavior need to be ongoing. 

Master of None co-star Lena Waithe made history last fall when she became the first woman of color to win a comedy writing Emmy for the episode in which her character comes out. In her moving Emmy speech, she shouted out to LGBT people saying, "I see each and every one of you." Of course, she also thanked the show's creator and star, Aziz Ansari.

"Thank you Aziz for pushing me to co-write this, bro. Now, we're standing here. I love you forever," Waithe said in her speech.

This week, Waithe, a member of Time's Up, the legal defense fund to stop sexual harassment, was asked to weigh in on a story about Ansari that recently went viral. The first-person piece on the site Babe outlined a sexual encounter he'd had with a young woman shortly after his Emmy win; it spawned dozens of commentary pieces on whether or not he had blurred the lines of consent or if he was just really bad at taking cues from a sexual partner.

"Here's the truth -- in every situation, it's not always black and white. And I know that's simple for people, and it's easy for people to [ask], 'Whose side are you on?' There are no sides, really, in some of these scenarios," Waithe said when asked about Ansari in an interview on NPR's The Frame. "I'm not on Harvey Weinstein's side, I'm not on Kevin Spacey's side. But I think you have to take each situation [individually]. You can't just say, 'Well, I'm on this person's team' or 'I'm on that person's team.' It doesn't work that way."

Waithe, who is also part of a Time's Up group formed specifically to address issues pertaining to women of color and LGBT people, also said that the way forward is to continue to discuss difficult issues around what constitutes consent and harassment.

"I think a big thing is, we have to have a dialogue. And I think if we're unwilling to have a dialogue we're going to continue to keep hitting our heads against the wall. We have to start re-educating ourselves about what consent is, what's appropriate behavior at the workplace," Waithe said.

Creator of the new Showtime series The Chi, Waithe also emphasized a need for education about what passes as acceptable behavior, pointing out that a rule can't be followed if it hasn't been defined, which was essentially Ansari's response to the accusations when he wrote in a statement about the incident, "We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual."

"We have to create codes of conduct. Those are things that we need. 'Cause also I think there's an element of -- how do you know if you're breaking a rule if you aren't aware of the rules?" Waithe said. "Or how do you know what appropriate behavior is if no one's ever communicated to you what appropriate behavior is? Even though some people may assume, 'Well, of course we all know what appropriate behavior is,' but some people may not know."

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Tracy E. Gilchrist