The Heights and the Depths

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s gorgeous movie In the Heights is a miracle of dance and a celebration of Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, where Miranda grew up. But Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, has been justifiably taken to process for a instead bleached-out solid of mainly mild-complexioned Latinos and Latinas. This is in contrast to the real Washington Heights, a intensely Dominican and Puerto Rican neighborhood, where by darker-skinned men and women are the norm.

Miranda’s response was exemplary, and he ruefully acknowledged the irony. “I begun crafting In the Heights,” he stated in a assertion, “because I didn’t feel seen. And more than the previous 20 years all I required was for us—ALL of us—to sense viewed.”

He continued, “I listen to that without adequate darkish-skinned Afro-Latino illustration, the work feels extractive of the group we wanted so considerably to symbolize with pride and joy … I can listen to the damage and annoyance about colorism.”

Far more from Robert Kuttner

Like anything Miranda writes, this apology was pitch-fantastic. But the injury has been carried out. Not like a engage in, you just cannot recast a movie.

So I got to pondering: How the hell could this have happened? This, right after all, is Lin-Manuel Miranda.

In the Heights, as his initial Broadway musical in 2008, preceded the epic Hamilton, wherever Miranda famously forged America’s founding fathers as African Individuals and informed the tale in hip-hop. There is nobody in musical theater extra alert to race.

Evidently, the many co-producers and casting directors, putting a whole lot of funds into a mass-industry crossover movie, desired to be absolutely sure it would draw in a large, i.e., white, audience. So it could not be also Black. I have no inside of sources for this supposition, and I suspect this was a lot more unconscious than deliberate. Lighter-complexioned Latin dancers and actors just in some way rose to the top rated of the pool—in a meld of subtle racism and commercialism,

This, in the 12 months of George Floyd and Black Life Issue and this in a theater piece written by Lin-Manuel Miranda! One more irony is that if you want to look at the future of America as a multiracial culture, wander as a result of the genuine Washington Heights, exactly where there is each shade of American.

If this can take place to a motion picture adaptation of a musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, of all people, it makes you recognize the moment extra just how deeply racism is embedded in the American consciousness, even when nicely-intentioned Hollywood liberals imagine they are celebrating multiracialism.

A Delighted Juneteenth to all. It is good, eventually, to formally mark the day. But we have such a prolonged way to go.