This production is of the latter type, a play turned into a film over 25 years ago. I love the story—a comedy-drama—and the theatre is one I’ve been meaning to visit. Yippee! Where do I get tickets? Reading on, I saw a blurb proclaiming the cast is 100% African American.
I have no problem with actors of any race. The more the merrier, and more interesting to me. But if you are going to specifically choose--and advertise—a cast of one ethnicity, there’d better be a reason. My recollection of the movie is that although location is specific to this particular story, nothing in the narrative or characters requires any certain race. A southern accent maybe, but race?
It got me thinking about the wrong-headed efforts to quell racism in this country. Things like job preferences, financial assistance and college entrance quotas are meant to help those who are allegedly discriminated against due to their race or culture. But does it help?
I submit that if you wanted to encourage racism, this is exactly what you would do. Tell a hard-working, straight-A high school student that she was passed over for her dream college for someone with poorer grades because the other applicant happened to be Black. Tell an out-of-work fire fighter that he didn’t land the job he needs to support his family because someone with Hispanic checked off on the application took precedence. Dear actress, even though you nailed the audition, you didn’t get the role because the director decided the whole cast should match his own color.
You know what that is? Racism, pure and simple. If I wanted to stage a play and advertised that it had a 100% White cast, can you imagine the outcry? What happened to picking the best person for each part? Choosing people for jobs, housing, financial help, or school admittance using race as the sole criteria is racism and breeds more of the same. That seventeen-year old high school student may begin to resent people of color. The fire fighter may begin to harbor a dislike for Hispanics. Maybe he avoids choosing a Hispanic dentist--who knows how he slid through dental school?
The best way to improve race relations is to stop addressing it at every turn. No check-off box on government forms, job and school applications, or anywhere else. Not for the collection of data, not for preferences, not for any reason I can think of. No entitlements, quotas or affirmative action. Equal opportunity for all. Our country is open-minded in general, and without these constant reminders that humans come in varying colors, and with the protections already built into the law, it will become even more so.
I recycled the card from the local theatre. If it was a story about African Americans, played by African Americans, no problem. But this production just strikes me as racist. Too bad, I liked the movie.
© 2014 Tracey Enerson Wood. All rights reserved.