Lin-Manuel Miranda Responded to Backlash for Afro-Latinx Erasure in ‘In the Heights’

"In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I'm truly sorry."

On June 9th, The Root released a video interview between reporter Felice León and In the Heights director Jon M. Chu in which León asks Chu why there is a lack of dark-skinned, Afro-Latinx representation in the film adaptation of the Lin-Manuel Miranda Broadway musical. “That was something we talked about and I needed to be educated about,” Chu said. “In the end…we tried to get the best people for those roles.”

León noted that seeing an Afro-Latinx person in a lead role would be the “breakthrough” the community is looking for. “I hope that encourages more people to tell more stories and get out there and do it right,” Chu said. And now, Miranda has responded to the backlash.

I started writing In the Heights because I didn’t feel seen, Miranda wrote in a June 14th Twitter post. And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us—ALL of us—to feel seen.

He continued, “I’m seeing the discussion around Afro-Latino representation in our film this weekend and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don’t feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles. I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy.”

“In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I’m truly sorry,” Miranda wrote. “I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening. I’m trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings. Thanks for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my future projects, and I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community.”

And though many are arguing on both sides of the conversation, many agree that In the Heights is still an incredibly important piece of diverse media that, though has its issues in terms of diversity, still champions a once-invisible community within Hollywood.

However, Miranda’s acknowledgement and response is what many others were looking for.

Both In the Heights and the issue of lack of diversity in the film are yet another milestone on the journey to change Hollywood and the entertainment industry for the better.

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