Imagine a Black voice actor is auditioning for a very familiar animated white human character like any other reading for the part. Let’s say, for example, the company doing the hiring rejected the voice actor based on the color of their skin. Should there be public outrage and petitioning for this type of racist behavior? These business practices have always been typical of white-owned companies.
Now hold on for a minute right there before jumping to any conclusion. Let’s step back a bit and start retracing our steps. If we recall, there have been re-casting of beloved characters such as Dr. Julius M. Hibbert, Missy, and Cleveland Brown, respectively. These casting changes led to roles once played by white actors being replaced with Black actors to match the race of the animated characters onscreen.
People can be hard-pressed to call out for what it is, but matching the cartoon characters’ race with the actors’ race is now a thing! It is unequal treatment, yes-no? Sure, some, like Kirsten Bell, vacated their role to an actor of color that will bring accuracy to its character. She was also committed to “learning, growing, and doing my part for equality and inclusion.”
Phil LaMarr, who portrayed various notable Black characters, including John Stewart, aka Green Lantern of Justice League/ Justice League Unlimited, voiced the lead Japanese character in Samurai Jack. Likewise, James Avery, known for his role as Uncle Phillip Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, lent his talent behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ arch Japanese enemy, Shredder. Shouldn’t the role of these characters have gone to an Asian actor?
Don’t get me wrong. As an Asian myself, I am honored for these talents to voice these Asian characters. However, looking at a preferential treatment standpoint, it does not sit well with me. If it’s not allowed for white actors to voice Black characters, then it isn’t okay for Asians, Hispanics, or any non-Blacks to do so either. Yet, it certainly isn’t okay for Black actors to portray other races other than their own kind.
It may have looked great in writing, but the execution is a misstep. It minimizes the choices non-white voice actors could only audition for when applying for parts. Sure, white privilege is alive and well, but actors of color, especially Blacks, could no longer call out racism based on race if skin tone matching is a factor in animation.
Is it wrong to deny an opportunity to a minority in a situation like this? Yes, but unfortunately, it will become a part of the territory if we continue with this trend. We will suddenly revert to what we were trying to get away from in the first place. In America, the topic of equality and racism is almost always synonymous with only Black and White. It shouldn’t be a Black and White issue, but rather, it should be a “people issue.”
Showing favoritism toward one minority race but ignoring similar problems other minorities are facing is never the answer. That’s not how equality works. Transferring and condoning this same kind of behavior to another race is not only not progressive, but it also undermines the values we are trying to have in place. Thus, it will create new sets of racial problems in the future.
If equality is what we’re really after, then equality it should be.
This post was previously published on Equality Includes You.
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Photo credit: Pixabay