Casting Beyond Color
Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Non-traditional casting, known by many names (color-conscious casting, colorblind casting, race-blind casting, blackwashing, integrated casting, etc.) is the practice of casting actors for roles without consideration of the actor's ethnicity, skin color, body shape, sex and/or gender. Depending on who you ask, this practice has grown to be both progressive and offensive to consumers, producers and workers in the media industry.
Legally, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity law insists that one's race not be part of the qualifications for a job, but industry leaders recognize that there is always a lack of diversity in the roles available.
90 percent of all plays produced by mainstream American theaters are performed by all-White casts. When questioned, theater actors blame directors, directors blame producers, and producers blame critics for the lack of diversity on stage in a domino-esc effect of “he said, she said”. Nicknamed “Theatre’s Poet of Black America”, the late August Wilson, staunch conservative on the matter, condemned casting any Blacks in roles written for Whites--"it detracts from the humanity of the actor. Likewise, I would be opposed to casting whites in my plays.” Wilson opined that altering performances meant for a specific ethnicity risks erasing the character’s cultural identity within the story.
As many Black performers seize on the new possibilities integrated casting offers them, media moguls, such as Marvel and D.C. have come under fire by critics for the “tokenization” of beloved comic book characters. Is it ethical to make the first Black superhero in American mainstream comics, Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon, the next Captain America? Law professor John Tehranian stated, "Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with race-blind casting, as long as it works both ways. But in reality, it never has; one rarely sees, for example, an African American, Latino, or Asian actor cast as a white character.” But does casting one (or two) less White persons make a difference? Off-screen, most Americans agree that, in our country, we have yet to achieve racial equality, but the revenue of such productions make the practice of integrated casting a lucrative one.
On The Streets
In February 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden indicated popular television advertising as evidence that the United States is growing less racist when mentioning the prevalence of mixed-race couples during his speech commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Despite the virality of the racial discrimination discussion, very little has been done to combat racial inequality in America. If you are expecting to see a victory for race equality on your screen, the Revolution Will Not Be Televised. And, now, a message about Whitewashing.
Original video uploaded by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
About the Author
Born in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Chris Perry travels the world as he writes for and manages the Grey Point of View. His hobbies include mastering the art of web design, navigating global news, and studying weapons of mass destruction.
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