The scenes of racial abuse in Coronation Street this week attracted a huge amount of debate on social media, with some viewers being of the opinion they should not have been aired at all.
But the soap’s Sair Khan – whose character Alya is central to the storyline – has said not only did she want the issue of racism discussed within the show, it was actually her who pitched it to the producers.
Speaking to the BBC, Sair explained that it was important that she portrayed Alya honestly, and that along with all the very positive storylines, that there is also a true portrayal of the uglier side of life.
“This was an issue that I definitely wanted to raise and wanted addressed, because I get a lot of people coming up to me, young Asian girls, Asian guys, that are so happy to see me on the television, a representation of them,” the actress said.
“I’m so happy to be that voice for them in all the positive elements that come with that, but there is negativity and I thought that was definitely worth exploring.”
The recent storyline saw Alya in a meeting with two brothers, Justin and Dale Parker, who she and business partner Aidan Connor were hoping to seal a deal with.
While Aidan was at the bar, Alya was subjected to racist and sexist comments from Dale.
Throughout the scene, Alya was referred to as Connor’s ‘assistant’, and references made to her ethnicity, including being told, ‘Oh I forgot your lot don’t have a sense of humour’.
After declining an alcoholic drink, Dale told Alya:”Lighten up will you? Oh you can’t you’re still that colour,” but played down his racial slur as a joke after Alya hit back at him.
As the show was about to air, a warning was televised that it contained ‘scenes of racial abuse and language that some viewers may find upsetting’, and while some did take to social media to deem it ‘shocking’ and even ‘brutal’, others praised the scriptwriters and Sair for raising the issue.
“Well sadly, this happens in real life all the time. I think Corrie are very brave tackling the storyline of racism and hope other soaps raise awareness of it too,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Racism is an everyday occurrence whether you are black or white, it’s good to see that the writers & producers of Corrie are making it part of their story line,” wrote another.
After the episode, Sair posted on Twitter thanking Corrie fans for their support, and teased that there was more of the story still to come.
“Wowza, thanks for all your comments about tonight’s Corrie,” she wrote.
“All I can say is KEEP WATCHING.”