Whitewashing takes away opportunities

Did you hear? Apparently actors like Rooney Mara, Emma Stone, and Benedict Cumberbatch are so talented that can play any race! What?

While actors do indeed have the talent to play characters of a different background, sexuality, and identity, one cannot portray a different race. Race is something that simply cannot be forged. Unfortunately this happens way too often.

This act of offense has been going on since the late 1800’s where it was not common to hire people of color in any sort of film. “Blackface” was actually used on white actors to give off the illusion that they were a person of color.

Whitewashing primarily occurs when a fictional character who is supposed to be a person of color is played by a white actor. This usually occurs in films that are adapted from a book or a true life event.

There’s a difference between casting a POC with a white actor and casting a POC as what was originally meant to be a white character. Fictional characters have the freedom of being a POC. If the race is not significant to the story, the casting does not have be limited to white actors. Minorities have very little to no representation in the industry since it is predominantly consists of white males. It is not equivalent in any way, shape or form.

Not only does whitewashing remove an opportunity to represent a whole culture in Hollywood but it also neglects to give a POC a job.

As a Hispanic woman, I see the limited ways Hollywood represents my culture. I can count the very few actresses that do on one hand. It would be difficult for me to find a Hispanic woman that has the same aspirations and goals as me on screen. It’s discouraging.

While there are more diverse roles popping up now than there was before, whitewashing is still occurring in 2015. Movies like “Stonewall,” “Aloha” and “Pan” have all released this year and have whitewashed characters that were meant to be of color. All of them also bombed in the box office.

In “Pan,” Rooney Mara was cast as Tiger Lily, a Native American friend of Peter Pan and the daughter of the native chief. The justification for her casting was the fact that it was set in Neverland, a made-up place. The movie made only $15.3 million in the opening box office weekend, which is catastrophic compared to the $150 million budget they had.

In “Aloha”, Emma Stone was casted as mixed Chinese and Hawaiian character. The movie cast was a majority of white actors, in a film set in Hawaii where white people are the minorities. “Aloha” opened with $10 million to their $40 million budget.

“Stonewall,” a film about the Stonewall riots, an event said to have started the LGBT rights movement, was also whitewashed. Instead of having the African American transgender woman Marsha P. Johnson and drag queen, transgender Sylvia Rivera, a made-up white male character was created to tell the historic story.

The pattern is evident.

It’s comprehensible when the casting call is limited to very specific identities, but the whole idea of representation isn’t about how difficult it may be. Young children deserve to have role models like a black superhero or a strong developed female character. It creates a safe environment for everyone, not just white people. It’s 2015 and awards are still being given out as “First African American women to…”. It’s extremely significant especially when people of color are discouraged from following the arts due to lack of representation.

We’re in a different time and, as a person of color, I hate seeing stereotypes continue to be endorsed due to lack of representation.

Whitewashing is insensitive and quite frankly, a waste of time and money.