White-Washing: Hollywood’s Racist Staple

White-washing is a systematic form of racism in Hollywood where a character of color is played by a Caucasian actor or actress. This is unfortunately nothing new. Hollywood has been white-washing for ages.

Hugo Weaving in Cloud Atlas (2012)

It has been an accepted convention in Hollywood since the start. Among the most well known are Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the self-titled film and Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While these casting choices might have been anticipated during a time of racial segregation and oppression, Hollywood still continues to make casting choices that prefer white actors over minority actors. Some recent examples are Emma Stone being cast as a Hawaiian/Asian character in Aloha and Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan Noonien Singh, an Indian character in Star Trek Into Darkness. To me it seems essential to re-evaluate the inequality in casting that people of color have all but come to expect in show business.

I feel as though we are not being able to tell our stories or represent ourselves because the mainstream media narrative is so overpoweringly white. One of the major problems with white-washing (besides being horribly offensive) is that it takes roles from talented actors that are actually of a particular race or ethnicity. They get stuck portraying small roles that are only there to enhance the story of the white lead or with stereotyped roles.

For example: If you are Indian, you’ll be typecast as a cab driver, or if you are Hispanic, you’ll be a drug dealer. Hollywood is a business, simple as that. And they continue to cast white actors for economic purposes. They require names that most Americans would recognize on the movie poster; they do not want to take a risk on an actor or actress that is not famous yet accurate to the character’s ethnicity. They feel that casting an unknown actor/actress with the correct ethnicity is not a good tactic to make money. 

I don’t know when Hollywood will ever get the hint that it’s time to stop white-washing. It’s sad to see this practice continue now in 2016, but there is still hope for a brighter future.


About Gabriella Giambanco

Gabriella Giambanco is currently a pre-med student at Northern Arizona University and in her spare time likes to write, especially, about pop culture and feminism.

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