Olivia Harvey
June 09, 2020 8:13 am
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Theo Wargo, Getty Images

Though the main focus of the recent Black Lives Matter protests America is on the police system, it’s far from the only industry with systemic racism. On Monday, June 8th, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) involved in the theater industry wrote an open letter titled “We See You, White American Theater,” in which they detail the struggles of operating within a white-led industry.

“We come together as a community of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatremakers, in the legacy of August Wilson’s The Ground on Which I Stand, to let you know exactly what ground we stand on in the wake of our nation’s civic unrest,” the letter begins.

“We see you. We have always seen you. We have watched you pretend not to see us.”

The letter goes on to call out how the majority of productions are white-led and produced for white audiences, “while relegating a token, if any, slot for a BIPOC play.” It also accuses white theatremakers of amplifying BIPOC voices when they are “heralded by the press,” writing “but refuse to defend our aesthetic when we are not.”

“We have watched you promote anti-Blackness again and again,” the letter reads. “We have watched you say things like—I may be white, but I’m a woman. Or, I may be white, but I’m gay. As if oppression isn’t multi-layered…We have always seen you. And now you will see us.”

Stars like Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Uzo Aduba, Sterling K. Brown, Leslie Odom, Jr., and many, many more have signed the letter. All of the signees urge readers to sign the petition on Change.org, which demands that white theatremakers and all those involved in the production process own up to the inequality they’ve sowed in the theater industry and pledge to right their wrongdoings.

Sign the petition, write about your experience in white American theater (if you have any), and demand change.