Sunday 11th December 2016,

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Racism Is Easier to Understand When the Shoe Is on the Other Foot

posted by Randall
Hamilton cast

The diverse cast of Hamilton includes Phillipa Soo, 2nd from right, as Eliza Hamilton.

By Ed Diokno

C’mon folks, give people credit when it’s deserved.

European Americans (AKA “white people,” aka “caucasians”) are not insensitive to the racist slings and arrows thrown at people of color. When they see an injustice, or an act of bigotry, they sometimes take the time to point it out.

Sarcasm or satire is so hard to convey in the written word. In case you can’t read the sarcasm in the first few lines of this post, let’s dispense with the subtleties.

Hamilton producers casting for the traveling production of the hit Broadway musical posted a job announcement looking for “non-White men and women.” That set off a hue and cry along the lines of reverse discrimination.

“What if they put an ad out that said, ‘Whites only need apply?’” said civil rights attorney Randolph McLaughlin, of the Newman Ferrara Law Firm. “Why, African Americans, Latinos, Asians would be outraged.”

“You cannot advertise showing that you have a preference for one racial group over another,” McLaughlin said. “As an artistic question—sure, he can cast whomever he wants to cast, but he has to give every actor eligible for the role an opportunity to try.”

RELATED: Leading ladies speak about diversity onstage

 

The New York Times reports that Maria Somma, the spokesperson for Broadway union Actors’ Equity, said the notice was “absolutely inconsistent with Equity’s policy.” She also said that the union wants “to encourage that everyone has an equal opportunity to go in and audition for shows.”

 The producers responded, it is essential to the storytelling of Hamilton that the principal roles—which were written for non-white characters (excepting King George)—be performed by actors of color. Precedence for this accepted practice for casting certain characteristics in certain roles is OK if it constitutes a “bona fide occupational qualification.” This follows in the tradition of many shows that call for race-, ethnicity- or age-specific casting, such as in The Color Purple or Porgy & Bess or the recently closed George Takei-inspired Allegiance.

“The casting will be amended to also include language we neglected to add, that is, we welcome people of all ethnicities to audition for Hamilton,” concluded the response.

 But nothing tops in honest the response from actress Constance Wu of ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat.

          RELATED:  Constance Wu Doesn’t Mince Words Defending Diversity of the Broadway Hit Hamilton

In a related matter, ESPN host Bomani Jones favored subtlety in his satirical protest of the racist mascots used by sports teams, but the response he got was anything but subtle.

RELATED: That darn football team in Washington D.C.

When Bomani filled in for Mike Golic on Mike & Mike, he wore a T-shirt with a graphic that had similarities to the MLB’s Cleveland Indians’ logo  — but in place of “Indians” was the word “Caucasians.” And instead of the cartoony Chief Wahoo mascot with a feather headdress was a cartoony Euro American with a dollar sign over his head.

Bomani Jones' controversial T-shirt.

A closeup of the Bomani Jones’ controversial T-shirt.

“The detrimental effect of treating Native Americans like mascots isn’t just a matter of hurt feelings … Native youth already face among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide in the nation, the direct result of a history of state-sanctioned violence, endemic poverty and systemic racism,” Mic’s Zak Cheney-Rice wrote in an article last year. He went on to cite a 2014 report from the Center for American Progress that said such imagery damages the mental health and self-esteem of Native American Youth.

To which Bowman replied:

 

Clearly the T-shirt struck a chord. Upset viewers used the reverse racism argument, thusly:

 

The debate surrounding the name-change and the Cleveland team’s mascot has been going on for years and like their NFL counterpart based in our nation’s capitol, the Cleveland baseball team has resisted the name change.

Bowman’s sarcastic T-shirt was noticed by viewers even though it was not a topic of conversation on the ESPN show.

(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)

(AsAmNews is an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. You can show your support by liking our Facebook page at  www.facebook.com/asamnews, following us on Twitter and sharing our stories.)

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