#WhiteWashedOUT Tweets That Accurately Portray The Frustrations All Asian-Americans Feel
There's a storm brewing on Twitter at the moment, and frankly, it's been a long time coming. Under the viral hashtag #WhiteWashedOUT this week, thousands of tweets conveyed the accumulated frustrations of the Asian-American community, specifically those in the media who so often fall victim to the trend known as "white-washing." In a scathing post on Facebook this week, actor George Takei took Hollywood to task for refusing to cast more Asian-Americans in roles that had originally been written for them.
"So let me get this straight. You cast a white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales…in Asia?" Takei wrote, referencing Marvel's recent run-in with fans angry that the company had cast white actress Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, a role many believed had originally been written for an Asian actor. "This backpedaling is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting. Marvel must think we’re all idiots."
Just last week, Marvel issued a statement to Mashable in which the company defended its casting decision, noting,
Takei quickly fired back in the comments section of his original post. "Marvel already addressed the Tibetan question by setting the action and The Ancient One in Kathmandu, Nepal in the film," he wrote. "[...] So this is a red herring, and it's insulting that they expect us to buy their explanation. They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are."
On Tuesday, Takei's Asian-American supporters (and supporters of diversity everywhere) took to Twitter to vent their collective experiences as a community, employing the hashtag #WhiteWashedOUT, which was jumpstarted by the group Nerds of Color:
You guys. #whitewashedOUT is some piping hot truth. Just sit back and read and let these things sink in. Don't argue. Don't be petty. Read.— Patty Miranda (@thepattymiranda) May 3, 2016
Growing up wishing you were white so you could be characters in stories #whitewashedOUT— Anna Akana (@AnnaAkana) May 3, 2016
My biracial Asian American kids have never seen a single kids' movie or show starring girls who look like them. #whitewashedOUT— Nicole Chung (@nicole_soojung) May 3, 2016
Growing up #whitewashedOUT means all my childhood heroes never looked like me.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) May 3, 2016
Being #whitewashedOUT means I was called a "chink" and "chinaman" by age 6. I felt only other API would accept me.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) May 3, 2016
#whitewashedOUT means the continued stereotype of the unattractive Asian male, the submissive Asian woman, the tiger mom, etc.— Ellen Oh (@ElloEllenOh) May 3, 2016
It took me a long time to be proud to be Asian. I make sure that my kids never feel that way. #whitewashedOUT powerful stories. Read it.— Kristy Mauna (@krissssm) May 3, 2016
#whitewashedOUT means that there are white ppl who think our hashtag, our need to tell our stories, is aimed at keeping them silent.— Preeti Chhibber (@runwithskizzers) May 3, 2016
POC identify w white protagonists all the time R white people so devoid of humanity they can't identify with POC heroes? #whitewashedOUT— David Mura (@MuraDavid) May 3, 2016
#whitewashedOUT meant it took years for me to realize writing Asian protags was possible. I cast myself as the sidekick in my own stories.— Sarah Kuhn (@sarahkuhn) May 3, 2016
#whitewashedOUT means white ppl can find themselves in India and have movies made, but I can't find myself in the US at all.— Preeti Chhibber (@runwithskizzers) May 3, 2016
#whitewashedOUT means that we get the message time and time again that white people are better at being Asian than we are.— Swapna Skywalker (@skrishna) May 3, 2016
Was asked to teach white actors how to do "Asian" make-up for a show bc they didn't cast AAPI. I refused #whitewashedOUT— Thien-Kim Lam (@thienkim) May 3, 2016
A few celebrities chimed in as well, including comedian Margaret Cho, who had stern words for Hollywood casting agents:
Those who say racism doesn't exist anymore are the biggest perpetuators of it #whitewashedOUT— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) May 3, 2016
According to The New York Times and a recent study by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, films with diverse leads actually tend to garner higher box-office totals and an overall better return on investment — facts that fly directly in the face of the popular "diversity doesn't make money" argument that plagued the hashtag on Tuesday as well.
"When your response is 'let me tell you how it works,' it sounds like you're saying we need you to educate us," comic book author Jon Tsuei wrote in a tweet last week, pointing out the ridiculousness in that same sort of argument.
The #WhiteWashedOUT hashtag this week didn't just serve as a vent-session for Asian-Americans to call out Hollywood's obvious whitewashing problem, it also allowed for real dialogue to take place and gave voice to a group that is often overlooked or ignored. Now it's up to Hollywood to actually listen.