Kumail Nanjiani is an Oscar-nominated actor, comedian and writer. But all his fame and accomplishments apparently haven’t shielded him from a scenario faced by many Asian-Americans ― getting mistaken for his brown colleagues.
Days after presenting at the Academy Awards, Nanjiani revealed that people still mix him up with other South Asian-American actors.
A day may come when I am not mistaken for another brown actor. But it is not this day.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) March 8, 2018
It’s unclear what prompted Nanjiani to send out this tweet. A representative for Nanjiani declined to explain the scenario to HuffPost.
Regardless, it wasn’t long before other brown stars chimed in with their own experiences.
Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj Koothrappali on “The Big Bang Theory,” revealed that he often gets mistaken for Nanjiani ― joking that for him, it’s a compliment.
Every time I get recognized for you I think “man I wish it were true:)”— Kunal Nayyar (@kunalnayyar) March 8, 2018
Kal Penn, who appears in the ABC television series “Designated Survivor,” said that he’d recently taken credit for both Nanjiani and Nayyar’s accomplishments.
I have taken credit for both of your accolades in the last 2 weeks so I guess I owe you each a photo, half a beer, and an awkward extended hug— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 8, 2018
Comedian Hari Kondabolu chimed in to add that even the most devoted fans can’t be trusted to know the difference between South Asian-American stars.
The time a fan of MY podcast with Kamau, drew fan art & thought you & me were the same person. pic.twitter.com/d0rreSQFyf— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) March 9, 2018
We are not the same person. pic.twitter.com/R8IGK1Ux2i— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) March 9, 2018
The most offensive thing here is the soul patch they gave me— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) March 9, 2018
And in case you thought people could at least separate South-Asian American stars by gender, comedian Aparna Nancherla swooped in to the Twitter conversation to reveal the pitiful truth.
I was congratulated on The Big Sick after a show & I went with it— Aparna Nancherla (@aparnapkin) March 9, 2018
Jokes aside, it’s not at all uncommon for Asian-Americans to report that they are often confused with co-workers of the same race. Studies have shown that people are better at distinguishing between the faces of others within their own race, but not as good at cross-race identification.
And because of Hollywood’s dismal lack of diversity, there simply aren’t that many prominent roles available for Asian-American actors working in the industry today. The stars who do make it through often claim they are typecast into the same category.
In the past, people have mixed up “Master of None” actor Kelvin Yu and the show’s co-creator Alan Yang.
Just this week, Getty Images received backlash for mislabeling photos of “Last Jedi” actress Kelly Marie Tran and Olympic skater Mirai Nagasu at the Oscars.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, journalist Iris Kuo wrote about her experiences getting mixed up with Asian-American colleagues. She said that even though those who misidentify Asian-Americans may not intend to be malicious, it’s still rude and racist.
“Whether they realize it or not, the repeated misidentification broadcasts its own message: I’m Asian, indistinct and not worth remembering,” she wrote.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.