When I was in high school, I was the only black girl on our schools hilarious improv team. Sure I’d have to play up my “blackness” for laughs and had no problems doing so, after all my high school was super diverse. It wasn’t until I got older when I realized how damaging that was, how I myself was enforcing those stereotypes that I didn’t like. So when it was time for college, I refused to let myself be boxed in my stereotype (sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t).
Sadly, this is still happening all over. Whether it’s a college production, local community theatre or a big movie audition, actors of color are getting asked some pretty offensive things. Things their white couterparts would never have to deal with.
Popular website Upworthy, did a piece on what it’s like being an actor of color auditioning for a role and to say the least the results are disheartening. Some actors going in for auditions were told by directors things like; “Could you be more Chinesey?” , “Could you be more ratchet?” , “You know what you’re getting ethnic. Don’t be afraid of it. Go further with it.” , and one of my favorites “Can you be more urban?” The last one is so common and I ask myself, what the hell does it mean to be “urban”, you mean Black? Just say Black!
Now some don’t think this is that big of a deal, but I’m sure we all know representation does matter and these tropes are harmful. Whether we like it or not, media has a way of shaping how the world sees us and how we see ourselves. I think the writers at Upworthy said it best: “Diverse representations of people from all walks of life promotes tolerance and understanding, and it improves the self-esteem of children and people of color.”
Check out the video below and let us know what you think! Have you, as an actor of color, heard some of these questions? Let us know!