A New York high school won’t be hosting “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” after outrage that the lead role went to a white student.
Ithaca High School found itself shunned by social justice after the role of Esmeralda went to a white student and caused a black student to quit.
“It shows you that theater wasn’t made for you,” the disgruntled actress told the Ithaca Journal. “And it shows you that, if you can’t get the parts that are written for you, what parts are you going to get?”
The protests began and “Students United Ithaca” wrote a letter.
The students indulged the idea that the girl cast as Esmeralda may be “a stellar actor, singer, and dancer” and any production would be “lucky to have” her. However they decided her complexion should disqualify her because she is an “epitome of whiteness.”
“At best, this is cultural appropriation,” the high school students wrote, accusing the Performing Arts Program at IHS of racial bias, and “at worst, it is whitewashing, a racist casting practice which has its roots in minstrelsy.”
Victor Hugo wrote “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in 1831 where he describes Esmeralda as half Roma, half French. The Roma (sometimes known as Romani or Gypsies) are mostly from Europe and run the gamete of skin tones, but the children insisted only “brown and black female students” should be allowed for the part. They say in the letter:
“Esmeralda is a Roma, part of an oppressed class of people. It is her oppression, and that of her people, which allows her to better understand the perspective of the Hunchback and to ultimately advocate for him.”
Musical Theater International production guide describes the fictitious character as “an outcast racially and culturally,” which is the idea that the student protesters misinterpreted to mean “black” or “brown.”
The school district pacified the angry children in an effort to be “more inclusive and culturally responsive” and “efforts to eliminate institutional biases.” The high school drama lead to IHS planning on organizing “another collaborative project” in hopes no one will be offended once again.
It didn’t end there.
The budding social justice warriors decided to post a list of additional demands to Facebook.
In one of the demands, the students asked to “STOP the racist and openly stated policy of ‘color blind’ casting in the ICSD.” Most of the demands are some variation of “hire more people of color” worded differently several times.
The list for Ithaca High doesn’t leave out the white students, however, gifting their white peers an opportunity to learn new things with a policy of “STOP ignoring and denying that you have created a white centered program run by white adults for the benefit of white children. White children should also be educated about interrupting these practices of White supremacy.”
The self proclaimed junior “social justice activists” explained to Fox News how their “endgame” is all about what’s best for everyone else. From the mouths of babes, they simply desire “…a performing arts program with more unity, more inclusion, and musical where we can all experience the joy and bonding of inclusive performing arts following best theatrical practices.”
The Performing Arts Department in Ithaca will be scrambling to rediscover “the joy and bonding of inclusive performing” or else these kids will have to make more Facebook posts.
According to recent census data, Ithica is 73.97 per cent white and 6.71 per cent black.
feature image: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)