Casting directors have an enormous power to shape how audiences see the world by selecting the actors playing characters. Color-conscious casting may be an approach to making sure that media can more accurately represent the world, and the diversity within it. But is it all beneficial? Or are there risks to color-conscious casting?
Color-conscious casting allows for diverse stories that are representative of our global culture
As our diverse cultures continue to reach across the globe and intermingle, it is imperative that our stories and media represent us all. It is especially important that minorities have their stories told, because the gross under-representation of their lives and cultures is oppressive and harmful. Color-conscious casting seeks to remedy that by being mindful of all races and cultures when crafting and telling a story.
Stories that acknowledge societal implications of race are more relevant and advance our cultural narrative
Artistic expression and global culture go hand in hand, each forever influencing the other and continuously evolving. Stories like Lin Manuel Miranda’s "Hamilton" represent the current United States’ atmosphere more fully and empathetically than narratives which choose to ignore social undercurrents. Without dealing with what is, there is no foundation on which our culture may grow to properly hold the people in it.
Intentional and nuanced representation of marginalized communities in the media combats prejudice
There has been a global movement to diversify representation in positions of power. Meanwhile, the definition of power itself is changing as we recognize the inherent influence of storytelling, whether it be in journalism or onscreen. It is vital to the growth of our society to intentionally include marginalized groups in political leadership and to empower minorities by expanding the stories that we tell.
Color-conscious casting uplifts BIPOC communities far more effectively and sustainably than does color-blind casting
The difference between colorblind and color-conscious casting is stark. Colorblind casting ignores skin color and ethnicity altogether when casting for a role, while color-conscious casting understands and pays attention to the implications of casting a person of a particular race for a role. Color-conscious casting is more beneficial to BIPOC communities than colorblind casting because it seeks to represent minorities fairly and realistically.
Color-blind casting seeks to level the playing field for actors but actually erases BIPOC experiences
Color-blind casting propagates that which it attempts to combat. Rooted in systemic racism and a tool of erasure, color-blind casting has not increased hiring for BIPOC communities, and also tells stories that are misleading and ignorant of our global culture. Color-conscious casting, on the other hand, seeks to tell nuanced stories beyond visual representation.
In the wrong hands, color-conscious casting can be weaponized
The idea behind color-conscious casting has good intentions behind it, but there are those who would twist it and misuse it for their own benefit. Color-conscious casting can use cultural nuances like a weapon to limit minority groups by casting people of color only in roles which line up with their cultural backgrounds. In other words, "historical accuracy" can be used as an excuse to exclude people of color from the roles that they are pursuing.
Color-conscious casting may place excessive responsibility on marginalized populations
The purpose of color-conscious casting is to rethink our cultural narrative and empower silenced voices. But if misused, color-conscious casting could limit the BIPOC community’s opportunities and leave the burden of representing their entire identity on their shoulders.