Theatre is part of art history in terms of its craft and dramaturgy, but it is part of
social history in terms of how it is financed and governed. By making money
available to theatres willing to support colorblind casting, the financiers and
governors have signaled not only their unwillingness to support black theatre but
their willingness to fund dangerous and divisive assaults against it. Colorblind
casting is an aberrant idea that has never had any validity other than as a tool of
the Cultural Imperialists who view American culture, rooted in the icons of
European culture, as beyond reproach in its perfection. It is inconceivable to
them that life could be lived and enriched without knowing Shakespeare or
Mozart. Their gods, their manners, their being, are the only true
and correct representations of humankind. They refuse to recognize black
conduct and manners as part of a system that is fueled by its own philosophy,
mythology, history, creative motif, social organization and ethos. The ideas that
blacks have their own way of responding to the world, their own values, style,
linguistics, religion and aesthetics, is unacceptable to them.
For a black actor to stand on the stage as part of a social milieu that has denied
him his gods, his culture, his humanity, his mores, his ideas of himself and the
world he lives in, is to be in league with a thousand nay-sayers who wish to
corrupt the vigor and spirit of his heart. To cast us in the role of mimics is to deny
us our own competence.
Our manners, our style, our approach to language, our gestures, and our bodies
are not for rent. The history of our bodies—the maimings .
.. the lashings .
..the body that is capable of inspiring profound rage and pungent
cruelty—is not for rent. To mount an all-black production of a Death of a
Salesman or any other play conceived for white actors as an investigation of the
human condition through the specifics of white culture is to deny us our humanity
our own history, and the need to make our own investigations from the culture
ground on which we stand as black Americans. It is an assault on our presence,
our difficult but honorable history in America; it is an insult to our intelligence, our
playwrights, and our many and varied contributions to the society and the world
The idea of colorblind casting is the same idea of assimilation that black
Americans have been rejecting for the past 380 years. For the record, we reject it
again. We reject any attempt to blot us out, to reinvent history and ignore our
presence or to maim our spiritual product. We must not continue to meet on t his
path. We will not deny our history, and we will not allow it to be made to be of
little consequence, to be ignored or misinterpreted.
In an effort to spare us the burden of being “affected by an undesirable condition”