We’ve all heard the saying “white men can’t jump,” which we know is actually not true. Yet somehow we stand in awe of Jeremy Lin, a Chinese-American guard for the New York Nicks, because who knew that a Chinese man COULD jump? Or actually be 6’3″? Both Jeremy Lin’s incredible height and skill on the court have torn down two major cultural stereotypes. However people in power still can’t see past the veneer of color into more diversity on stage.
On the conversation of diversity on stage, I was shocked by the statics used in the recent RepresentAsian conference entitled Asian-Americans: Why Can’t We Get Casted in New York? The static revealed that 80.3% of casting goes to Caucasian performers, 13.2% goes to African-American performers, 3.5% goes to Hispanic performers, 2.3% goes to Asian Americans, and 0.7% goes to “OTHER” performers.We are approaching a majority-minority, yet our stages and education environments do not reflect that in any way shape or form. The forum’s purpose was not to point fingers, because truthfully that never helps the situation, instead their were interested in asking “How do we engage in dialogues with the New York theater community without placing blame?”
One of the most important comments made by actress Anitha Gandhi. She pointed out that, “when contemporary plays are produced, we’re not looked upon for roles of the girlfriend, best friend, mom or father. I feel the color angle really does us a disservice. There is this patting-the-back mentality among producers and casting persons who will say, ‘There is a black actor in my production.’ … They don’t look at us as being part of the fabric of the American story.” Although this forum was specifically geared towards opening a dialogue about Asian-Americans performers, it is am issue that plagues all minority performers. There is simply a lack of writing that depicts us as fully fleshed out human beings.
Even though we’ve made large strides, we are still haunted by faulty perceptions. We still think Asians are really good at math, Black women are always angry, White men can’t jump, Native-Americans are drunkards, and Hispanics are hyper-sexual. These stereotypes are used to box people in, blind us from seeing the Jeremy Lin’s that exist.