Racialicious

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations. If you've been on the blog, you know how this Tumblr works, too. Including the moderation policy.
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Posts tagged "whitewashing"

White Luke Cage [Hollywood film casting satire w/ a Racialicious.com shout out]

Come on, y’all…if you write a story and set it in a place like Broaddus’ Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, London, or Las Vegas, basic demographic research will indicate the presence of people of color. To read and enjoy Urban Fantasy, I am expected to just accept that Black people don’t exist? You get the side-eye for that one.

Whether or not you like Urban Fantasy, the fact of the matter is that this subgenre of Fantasy has had an immense and global impact on people through literature, television and film.

It is because of this impact that we cannot ignore the messages that Urban Fantasy brings. Each time an author of this subgenre decides to tell a story, instead of working so hard to erase people of color out of existence, they should work just as hard to erase the problems that plague our society. And fanboys…do not say that writers should not have to be political; that they should be free to write merely to entertain. Every statement we make is political. Every sentence we write is potentially life-changing for someone. Such is the power of the word.

You cannot truly change culture without literature. We can pass a thousand laws saying that racism and sexism are wrong. We can make a thousand impassioned speeches to rouse the marginalized masses; but if everyone returns home after those speeches and sits down to read the latest installment of Twilight, or watch the next episode of The Vampire Diaries and their fictional worlds in which those same marginalized masses barely even exist – then how much change can truly be affected?

It is within the pages of books and under the light of the TV screen where we will reach people and change the world for the better…or worse.

Over and over again, we are told that our stories aren’t worth being told. We do not get to be the heroes. We are never “the one destined to come since man was young upon the earth”. If we are lucky, we get to be the “magical negro”; the “noble savage”; the sidekick; the Black person who doesn’t die in the first ten minutes of the film.

This is damaging to the psyches of people of color. And a devastating blow to the self-esteem of our babies.

So, don’t tell me writers just write to merely entertain, when entertainment has such a powerful, deep and lasting impression on the minds of us all.

But what got me writing was the recent news of a bump in the polls for U.S. Senate candidate, Elizabeth Warren. That bump is being attributed to her speech at that convention, and I remembered that speech as very good example of how politicians whitewash history in order to win political points with white voters.

Now, I’m not trying to pick a fight with Elizabeth Warren. She’s no worse, and probably a lot better, than most politicians of both major parties. But consider what she said -

"I’m here tonight to talk about hard-working people: people who get up early, stay up late, cook dinner and help out with homework; people who can be counted on to help their kids, their parents, their neighbors, and the lady down the street whose car broke down; people who work their hearts out but are up against a hard truth—the game is rigged against them. It wasn’t always this way….

"…I grew up in an America that invested in its kids and built a strong middle class; that allowed millions of children to rise from poverty and establish secure lives. An America that created Social Security and Medicare so that seniors could live with dignity; an America in which each generation built something solid so that the next generation could build something better.."

You and I both know that not everyone was able to participate equally in those programs and opportunities. But to hear Warren and other leaders of both parties talk about this rose colored past, approximately the period from 1934 to the mid 1960s, you’d think fairness was the cardinal American value of the time.

But of course they do know better. Elizabeth Warren was born in 1949. That means she was about 16 years old when Jim Crow laws were finally defeated.

Scot Nakagawa, “Whitewashing History at the Democratic National Convention,” RaceFiles 9/18/12

brashblacknonbeliever:

Back in January, the Plano Children’s Theatre in Plano, TX decided to put on a production of Hairspray. The decided to do it however without any black children. None. Not one. Their explanation for doing a play whose main premise is about racism and segregation without any black children?

At intermission, I spoke to Darrell Rodenbaugh, president of PCT’s board of directors. My question was “Why do you have white kids playing black characters?”

“Well, should we deny these kids the opportunity to do a fun show?” he said. “We’d paid for the rights to the show six months in advance. We couldn’t cancel it.”

Didn’t any black kids audition? No, said Rodenbaugh, it’s hard to recruit black kids to PCT because there aren’t that many in Plano. (African-Americans make up less than 8 percent of the Plano, Texas, population of 259,841, according to the most recent census numbers.)

So why do a show with black characters in it if you know going in that you won’t have any black kids to play them?Rodenbaugh had several answers about how much the kids wanted to do Hairspray, how they weren’t going to bow to “political correctness” and how “the parents expect this.”

They expect to see white kids playing black characters? “Yes,” said Rodenbaugh, who has kids in the cast of Hairspray, one of them playing Little Inez. He said PCT also did the musical Once on This Island with an all-white cast. (It’s an Ahrens and Flaherty show that’s basically Romeo and Juliet set in the French Antilles. It’s usually cast along racial lines, with black actors playing the peasants and Anglos playing the upper classes. There is a version of the show that removes references to skin color and makes the story about class differences. I don’t know if PCT did the latter.)

Rodenbaugh said they might do To Kill a Mockingbird with an all-white cast or Othello or The Wiz (three shows I mentioned to him that feature African-Americans either in prominent roles or as a majority of the cast). He said he saw nothing offensive or amiss about having no black actors in a show about racial segregation. I had to ask: Doesn’t having an all-white cast ignore the core message of Hairspray - you know, the message about how the black kids weren’t allowed to be on a show with white kids until brave little Tracy took a stand?

Rodenbaugh told me each young member of the PCT Hairspray cast had been asked to write a “report” about what the plot was about. “They’re learning a good lesson in this show,” he said.

I’m sure they are. I’m just not sure it’s the right lesson.

Now, I know a lot of y’all are gonna say “but he said no black kids auditioned!” Well, it’s interesting you bring that up. A little later in the article, we get this quote.

Later, I spoke by phone with Hairspray’s choreographer Darius-Anthony Robinson, an African-American who’s well known in the DFW professional musical theater community. He’s currently working in Casa Manana’s upcoming production of Rent. Robinson said when he went into rehearsals for PCT’s Hairspray, there were several black kids in the ensemble, but after a few days, they all dropped out for various reasons.

Hmmm… so we went from “no black kids auditioned” to “there were several black kids but they all dropped out.” Now isn’t that interesting. I’d really love to hear some of the reasons every single black child had to drop out. I’m sure it’d be very enlightening.

In order to put on an all white production of Hairspray they had to contact the rights holders, Musical Theatre International, and ask for permission. The one “good” thing about this was the use of blackface was strictly forbidden. If anyone puts on a production of Hairspray that features a white person in blackface MTI will fine them $13,000. (Oh and before you ask, yes, people have asked MTI if they could have white folks in blackface in the play. The answer has always been no.)

This definitely ranks on the top 15 list of the most egregious, unrepentant, and just straight up insulting displays of whitewashing I have ever seen. Here’s a protip for the masses, if your cast is all white, don’t do a play about racial segregation. You’ll never be able to pull it off in a “not racist” way.

(via racebending)

racebending:

Deadline reports that Julie Kagawa’s book, The Immortal Rules, has already managed to sell screen rights. The book was published by Harlequin Teen this week. The story is set in the future United States and is about a girl named Allie Sekemoto who is turned into a vampire.

The review at Kirkus notes the disconnect between the book cover and excerpts from the book where other characters explicitly describe Allie as Asian.

Given the katana-wielding heroine has already been whitewashed on the book cover, this doesn’t bode very well for the movie.