Washing away diversity


art by Kailie Otto

Claire Boysen, opinions writer

You sit down on the couch after school, ready to watch your favorite TV show. You turn on the TV and see the same thing you always see: Friends, Full House, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Girl Meets World, and you realize one thing they have in common. White. Whether you’re aware of it or not, whitewashing is not new to the media. Whitewashing is when people who are Caucasian are casted as non-white characters or when shows or movies star mostly white roles. This notion makes it harder for people of color to be casted. This dominance of white roles does not stop at movies and television, but includes theater too.

If you like any kind of theatrical production, on or off Broadway, you may have noticed the dominance of white leads (with perhaps some diversity in the ensemble). While playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda challenged this tradition in his most recent Broadway production Hamilton: An American Musical, he did so purposefully to create a colorblind show (not casting someone based on skin color). But having the majority of productions starring white people, makes it difficult to cast more inclusively not only in Broadway, but schools too.

At KHS, 74 percent of the population are white, making it harder to cast more diverse roles in theatrical productions. No one can control what ethnicities try out for plays and musicals, but at the same time it can be discouraging when traditionally the play showcases only one race. People are likely to be casted, or feel like they will be casted, depending on skin color.

Friends of mine who are of color and involved in theater have told me they think they will get a certain role because of their skin color or that they will not get a role because of it. The feeling of not being able to be a part of something because of something you cannot control, such as race, should not exist. It creates a notion that one race is more desired than another, which is not only an outdated way of thinking, but is also a step back in the modern world that we have tried so hard to start progressing.

In addition, directors can claim they do not cast based on race, however, that will never be true unless they actually start casting and producing more diverse productions.

While KH Players tries to combat racial inequalities seen in the theater world (an example being the upcoming winter play, The Exonerated, a production where a diverse cast is crucial), it is difficult to cast more diverse people when only a small number of people audition. This is understandable because people are a lot less likely to try something if they believe they will not be successful. Kelly Schnider, drama teacher and director, said she tries to encourage students of color to audition by either asking them herself or picking more racially inclusive productions.

While the issue of inclusiveness in media and theater may seem like it is the director’s fault, it is also the fault of the people watching. If people craved more things like Hamilton or Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, which display greatly diverse casts, the directors would have no choice but to produce more of that content and to make diverse casts the new norm. I’m not saying there should no longer be any Caucasian leads and that all white shows are unenjoyable. However, the best shows are those with diversity because it causes the characters to tell a different story besides the same old tale of a white heterosexual cisgendered person.