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“In the Heights” Casting Calls Attention to Colorism in Latinx Community

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Lin Manuel Miranda’s film adaptation of his musical, In the Heights, came under fire from Afro-Latinx viewers for its lack of representation of black members of their community.

What We Know:

  • Miranda’s In the Heights is designed as a semi-autobiographical depiction of the Washington Heights neighborhood in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It shows a struggling but vibrant community and for many has been a beacon of representation. However, the film adaption fails to display the true fabric of Washington Heights as it neglects the large population of Black Latinx people that live there.
  • Discussion about the colorism seen in the film’s casting was spurred by a June interview with The Root’s Felice León and director Jon M. Chu. She asked Chu his thoughts on the lack of Black Latinx representation in the film. He responded with, “That was something that we talked about and that I needed to be educated about. In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people who were best for the roles.”
  • Chu and actress Melissa Barerra pointed out the movie’s background dancers as examples of black representation in the film, which did not satisfy viewers. Colorism has long been an issue in the Latinx community as Afro-Latinx members often get erased, especially those of Caribbean descent.

Culture critic Soraya McDonald stated, “These discussions are ones we end up having because there is such an atmosphere of scarcity when it comes to these stories.”

  • Miranda has come under fire for black erasure before with his highly successful show Hamilton. Despite having a predominantly black cast, many feel it erases black people from the historical narrative. Chu has also come into similar criticism for his 2018 film Crazy Rich Asian‘s depiction of Singapore and its omission of Malay, Indian, and other ethnic populations.
  • Franceli Chapman, an Afro-Latina actress and Washington Heights native, said, “Washington Heights is a real place with real people. When you walk through that neighborhood, what it looks like is not being reflected on screen.” Miranda has since apologized in a statement released on Twitter, acknowledging the criticism.

  • A study conducted in 2019 and released this year found that, of Black women cast in leading roles in the past decade, only 19% had dark skin. Rebecca Carroll, culture critic and author of Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir, stated, “For the folks who may not even notice the erasure – white audiences – their willful ignorance is not merely validated but cemented. For the people who see the Black background dancers as sufficient representation and/or progress, that remains progress. And for those of us who find the erasure absolutely glaring, we have to start all over again with why it matters.”

While In the Heights can still be celebrated for the representation of Latinx communities it does provide, the film clearly identifies the need for more discussion around colorism in the industry.

The post “In the Heights” Casting Calls Attention to Colorism in Latinx Community appeared first on Black News Alerts.

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