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Monday, April 19, 2021

With violence and fear, Broadway finds itself in the middle of a history of racism

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This past weekend, the New York Times published a long story describing the racist violence that took place at the Nov. 2 performance of “Hamilton.”

There is a rich history of hate in American musical theater. There are those who opposed the composition of “Singing in the Rain,” a patriotic musical featuring racially integrated music.

There are African-American performers who were excluded from roles in the musical “Hello, Dolly!” for fear of offending the theater owners.

There are members of the KKK in Broadway history.

In a similar vein, The Times piece points out the role that bias plays in the recruitment of rappers like Kanye West. West had the wrong accent and was denied to perform on the radio show for fear of offending mainstream listeners. West should have expected what racist radio station programmers expect from popular artists.

To tackle the problem of racial violence, there are two steps to take.

First, educators should make sure that their students know about the racial history of America, and highlight the racism of the past. Second, teachers should make sure their students understand that social media is a powerful tool for culture and entertainment, and it is not necessarily bad or “the devil’s work” to express and discuss opinions online.

It is something that should be embraced as an opportunity for students to learn how to interact in an online culture that is changing at an accelerating pace.

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