Identity is no small issue for Dear White People’s Logan Browning. Aside from her leading role as the oft-confused but always outspoken biracial firebrand Samantha White, Browning tells Refinery29 she’s spent her entire life being asked: “What are you?”
My first answer is: “My parents are Black.” Part of the reason I say that is because I want to help shift people’s ideas of different ethnicities, thinking that they all have to look the same. ... I just wanted to be a part of saying, “Yes, just because I have light eyes doesn’t mean that I’m biracial. I can still have Black parents.”
Growing up, I saw myself as Black. I wasn’t raised in a biracial household; I don’t call myself biracial. I don’t think of myself as biracial. I think of myself as Black — because that’s what I am.
Of course, Browning, who is adopted, also admits that “there’s a part of my identity outside of my ethnicity that I don’t know. But I don’t see myself as any different.”
In fact, Browning tells Refinery29 that exploring identity and privilege is what initially attracted to Dear White People, which sparked a short-lived boycott of Netflix, following the announcement that they were adapting the film into a series. “I feel like I’m the right woman for the job,” she says, addressing the controversy—and current state of the world—by saying:
People are always afraid of giving up their privilege because they feel like that means they’ll disappear. They don’t think there’s room for everyone. ... No one is saying that you’re going to wake up one morning and say, ‘Oh, what a great day to give up my privilege!’ That’s not easy when you’ve lived in a world and a system that has always benefited you.
Browning is being forced to examine her own privilege, too. As a light-skinned woman in an industry that favors white women and black women who look like her, she’s continually confronting the implications of being considered more acceptable in her chosen field—even while existing within the margins herself.
As a woman and a woman of color in this industry, I do fight for roles. To have an opportunity like [Samantha White] is very exciting—and yet, at the same time, I’m in a position to really listen to and absorb the feelings of people who would like to see a darker-skinned woman in this title role instead. ... I don’t want people to associate me with keeping other women of color out of a leading role. It’s an interesting position to be in ... It cautions me. It’s made me very aware and careful of every move I make.
Most of all, whether on screen or on the red carpet, Browning seems to still be finding her own place in the world—and the industry.
That’s the thing about me: If you look at everything I’ve done or worn, I’m still not sure you’d be able to say, “Logan is this.” ... And maybe you can! Maybe I’m the one who can’t do that. Maybe that’s good for me to keep thinking about. Maybe there will be a transition in my life where there will be this kind of moment where I go, Ah ha! It’s exactly this. But for right now, there’s no box you can put me in.