Reverse-racism not present in "Hamilton"

By Shankari Sureshbabu

The smash-hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” about the life of the founding father Alexander Hamilton is pulling in more positive feedback than anyone could have ever expected. However, amidst all of these glowing reviews, there does seem to be one complaint: racist casting.

Colorblind casting, an industry phrase, calls for nondiscriminatory casting for roles and having more racially diverse casts such as those of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Scandal”.SO Usually, this is so we don’t have all-white Oscar nominees (like this year) or all-white TV shows. “Hamilton” is different however, because in real life, almost all of the historical figures were white, but in the musical they are predominantly played by people of color.

This wasn’t done unintentionally; the producers of the show even put out a statement clarifying this. “It is essential to the storytelling of ‘Hamilton’ that the principal roles, which were written for nonwhite characters, excepting King George, be performed by non-white actors,” SO

Obviously, people are quick to shout reverse racism and complain about the unfairness of the situation. But this is not unfair. Casting directors often ask for people of a specific race or gender that they believe are the best fits for roles. As they are casting with a vision already in mind of what they want, filling these roles with actors who fulfill these requirements just makes sense.

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    Colorblind casting is for when the race of a character is not an integral part of them and thus can be filled by whichever actor best suits the role. “Hamilton,” although it retells the story of a white man and his life, is heavily influenced by hip hop and rap.SO

    The story outlines the struggle of a hard-working underdog becoming one of the most influential men in the history of our country. It resonates with a lot of people as a representation of the American dream. It reflects not only the story of many immigrants trying to make a life in the U.S., but also the racial history of America.SO

    As the musical was written with this in mind, it’s understandable why the producers would like to have people of color in the show’s main roles. Although there are definitely white actors more than capable of doing a fantastic job portraying these parts, it sends a deeper message when the writer’s visions come to fruition.

    The producers eventually did change the casting call, stating that all ethnicities are allowed to audition, but it’s understandable how many white actors would be upset if they still have a lesser chance of getting a role in this phenomenal production. This is probably how people of color feel pretty much all the time.

    In the past, there have been white-washed casts in many productions such as “Hairspray,” a musical directly dealing with racial affairs, but these incidents have not gotten nearly as much backlash for their casting choices as “Hamilton” has. This begs the question, would this be as criticized, if criticized at all, if they had asked for an all-white cast. It seems a bit hypocritical that this is such an issue now, when it has never been that big of a deal when the situation was reversed.

    “Hamilton” definitely takes a spin on history as we know it. This is what makes it so revolutionary and why it is receiving so much praise in the first place. It was written with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s unique vision and it should be allowed to be presented that way. 

    Shankari is a freshman in DGS. 

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