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Star of ‘Evil’ Aasif Mandvi Says Parents Can Prevent Racism

The former 'Daily Show' correspondent and Lemony Snicket Uncle explains what he learned from his own family.

Credit: CBS

Indian-born writer and actor Aasif Mandvi may be best-known for his gently acerbic turn as a Daily Show correspondent, holding down such titles as Senior Asian Correspondent, Senior Middle East Correspondent, and Senior Foreign Looking Correspondent. So as his creepy-cool CBS series Evil, about otherworldly phenomena, wraps up its first season, we asked Mandvi about teaching kids acceptance: “It’s a part of your own personal value system. If you model it, kids mimic what their parents do. If you’re a racist and you hate black people, you’ll pass that on to your kids.”

If you’ve never met a Muslim before, says Mandvi, maybe go out for dinner and connect via food. “What’s more difficult is teaching hate. When I was a kid, I had Asian friends and black friends. I wasn’t predisposed to think this was someone I was supposed to be afraid of. We’re naturally predisposed to acceptance,” he says. “As a child, I never thought any of my friends were less than me until my parents told me that they were. We absorb it and years later, in therapy, we realize it was bullshit.”

Folks, he’s kidding. But in all seriousness, after playing weird Uncle Monty in Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, he now has a very non-Jon Steward fan base. “I’ve never had children as fans. They’re hardcore,” he says.

The dude is also a prolific scribe who co-wrote the Funny or Die Islamophobia comedy series Halal in the Family (also known as The Qu’osby Show), and the book No Land’s Man: A Perilous Journey through Romance, Islam, and Brunch. And these are two books he recommends for his younger followers.

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It's about a young Indian girl dealing with her name.

“I’ve never seen a book for that age group that’s for an Indian kid dealing with being different. I would recommend that book,” says Mandvi. 

It's a beautiful story about this young girl and her journey and trying to understand the world.

“There’s a wonderful book I’ve optioned, called The Night Diary, about a young girl and the partition between India and Pakistan. Her mother is dead. Her father is Hindu. They have to leave their home and become refugees,” says Mandvi. “They learn about why some people hate each other.”