I hope it’s no surprise that whitewashing has been an accepted convention in Hollywood since the beginning. The history of blackface and yellowface has been well-documented, but with recent reminders like The Last Airbender, Drive, and the highly-anticipated Hunger Games, it seems necessary to re-examine the inequality in casting that people of color have all but come to expect from media.
Lately, whenever roles written for people of color are filled by white actors, there is an outcry, subsequently countered by a surprisingly large group of people who are desperate to deny the systemic racism of Hollywood: the kinds of people who will use words like “post-racial” while defending a white actor being given a role meant for a person of color. Let’s also not forget those who are vocally upset when the tables are turned and a person of color is given a role traditionally played as white. (Most recently, Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor, Angel Coulby as Guinevere in Merlin, and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson in the upcoming Elementary). But, if there really isn’t a institution of racism in Hollywood and we’re somehow beyond race as a country, why are people of color still deemed insufficient to tell our own stories?
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