Is Colorblind Casting Racist?

08Aug08

I just read an article in AsianWeek by Philip W. Chung, writer and co-artistic director of Lodestone Theatre Ensemble. Chung thinks that colorblind casting is racist. He believes that Asian roles should be played by Asian actors, and no one else.

White actors should not be taking roles meant for minorities.

I had to re-read that sentence at least 5 times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Any actor, of any race, creed, color, or orientation ought to be be outraged by a statement like that. He goes further:

At the heart of the argument that white actors should be able to play minority parts is a subtle racism that is also at the heart of opposition to affirmative action programs. The underlying foundation of this school of thought is that white people are better and more talented, i.e. we can’t let “those people” onto our most prestigious stages or into our finest schools because they’re not as good as us.

I understand where Chung is coming from. It has been a very long, difficult road for Asian American actors who face a limited amount of leading roles in television, film, and stage. The same can be said for African American actors, Mexican American actors, etc. But this kind of reverse racism is appalling, and has no place in the theatre, let alone society in general. I highly doubt this is what Martin Luther King, Jr. had in mind when he delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Does that not apply to actors?

Perhaps the biggest irony of Chung’s opinion is the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble’s motto, which is prominently displayed on its website:

PLAYS WITHOUT RULES

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