It’s almost possible to feel sorry for Lin-Manuel Miranda. He’s served the Revolution well. But like so many leftists before him, he may end up airbrushed from the proverbial official Kremlin photos. His sin: casting the wrong kind of Hispanics in his movie “In the Heights.”
Miranda is a talented popularizer of identity politics. With “Hamilton,” he took the life of one of our Founding geniuses, dumbed it down, racialized it and set it to a rap soundtrack. In 2016, he used a performance of the play to lecture the vice president-elect. He’s lent his name and efforts to myriad progressive causes.
“In the Heights”is about Domincan immigrants in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. You can bet it too hits all the correct lefty notes. But the skin tones are apparently all off. A certain lack of blackness has been noticed by the kind of people who notice such things, and controversy ensued.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Julissa Contreras and Dash Harris Machado declared, “With its White and light-skinned leading roles, the film became part of a long tradition in the Americas of Black erasure.”
Okay. There are a lot of black people in the Caribbean and Latin America. Maybe they’re not represented enough in movies. Point taken.
“The problem is believing that “Latino-ness’ presents a worthy ‘alternative’ to U.S. whiteness,” the duo write, “when it is simply White hegemony by another name.”
“White hegemony!” Now you just need “patriarchy” and “heteronormative” to fill out your Woke Bingo cards.
But Contreras and Machado are disciplined, and they keep their resentment focused, saying “triumphalist talk about “representation” crumbles when you point out how all the film leads, picked to represent a heavily Afro-Dominican community, just coincidentally and conveniently happened to pass the “brown paper bag test.”
But let’s be clear: Miranda doesn’t do racial verisimilitude. White people were very publically excluded from auditions for “Hamilton.” And how do the authors feel about a black guy cutting a swath through Regency England in “Bridgerton?”
They’re not looking for realism or representation. They’re doctrinaire lefties invested in critical race theory and interested in establishing who are the purest victims in the racial spoils sweepstakes:
Non-Black Latinxs constantly complain about being underrepresented. But one could simply tune in to any of the Latinx media networks that overrepresent White actors to see the reality. You won’t see many Black Latinxs on those networks. They prefer us out of sight, our stories invisibilized, our narratives minimized. Erasure does not exist in a vacuum, it is part of the larger project of White hegemony and domination, maintained through racism, colorism and classism. The ruling “Latino” elite is predominantly White and mestizo, here in the United States and in the Americas.
Yes, it’s tempting to sympathize with Miranda, hounded as he is by bitter social justice drones like Contreras and Machado. But live by the identity politics sword ...