“Glee” actress Naya Rivera caused a stir this week when she shared her controversial thoughts on race and personal hygiene on the ABC talk show “The View.”
Rivera appeared as a guest co-host of “The View” on Tuesday, and told her fellow co-hosts, “I have to say I have a theory about showering, [which] is that I think that white people shower a lot more than ethnics. I feel like showering more than once a day or every day is such a white people thing.”
She also added: “My mom is half-black, half-Puerto Rican, she showers every day, so I can say this. I’m now married to a white man and he showers a lot. Like two, three times a day. I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’”
The actress has 1.72 million followers on Twitter, and her comments swiftly provoked outrage from fans on social media. Many fans who were disappointed in her remarks commented that they felt her statement would perpetuate negative stereotypes about minorities and people of color as “dirty.” Some also took issue with use of the word “ethnics” to refer to people of color.
Rivera later addressed her critics in a tweet of her own, telling them to lighten up: “When you get out of the shower today, get a sense of humor. Love ya!”
Rivera may have been joking, but her comments were troubling to many people of color particularly because they perpetuate old stereotypes that minorities are inherently less hygienic than white people. Jim Crow laws and segregation in the 19th and 20th century were often predicated on the belief that African-Americans were filthy, and thus whites could be contaminated by shared use of things like drinking fountains and restrooms.
In the 1960s, during the midst of the civil rights movement, a Newsweek poll found that 70% of white people believed black people smelled differently than white people.
It’s likely Rivera did not realize the historical implications her comments would bring up when she shared her perspective on “The View.” But given the history of offensive myths associated with black people, it’s not surprising that so many people on Twitter were outraged by her comments.