Amandla Stenberg Responds To 'The Hate U Give' Colourism Controversy
27 July 2018, 13:22
"Over the past year I’ve heard concerns from my community around my casting as Starr in The Hate U Give..."
Amandla Stenberg has responded to colourism concerns over their character in the upcoming film The Hate U Give. The Hate U Give, which is based on a book of the same name by Angie Thomas, has fuelled conversations about casting black actors and the nature of colourism in entertainment.
Amandla, who plays Starr in the film, has addressed some of the criticism in a lengthy and powerful Instagram post, telling those with these specific concerns that "they are seen and heard" and that they were glad the conversation was "being opened up."
Some fans specifically envisioned a darker skinned black girl for the role, partly because of the book's cover, which featured an illustration of a dark skinned woman.
Following an interview in which Angie Thomas praised Amandla's work on the film, the author explained that the publisher had chosen the image of the young girl on the book cover, but that she had, in fact, thought of someone like Amandla as Starr.
Over the past year I’ve heard concerns from my community around my casting as Starr in The Hate U Give and I want those who are worried to know they are seen and heard. Something that I love most about the black community is the accountability and expectation for greatness and consciousness that we maintain. I hope Angie’s perspective can alleviate those concerns, though I don’t expect it to address the age old conundrum of colorism and I’m glad this conversation is being opened up. The lack of diversity within the black girl representation we’re finally getting is apparent and it’s NOT ENOUGH, and I understand my role in the quest for onscreen diversity and the sensitivity I must have towards the colorism that I do not experience. Do I aim to represent all black girls? Hell nah! Do I expect all black girls to feel represented by me? Absolutely not. We encompass a beautiful and expansive plethora of experiences, identities and shades and it would be ridiculous to assume that I should or could represent all of us. I want my sisters to know I navigate my industry with an acute awareness of how my accessibility contributes to the representation I am granted. I do so with a vigilance concerning the commodification of blackness and not taking up space that doesn’t belong to me. My biggest hope is that this precarious game of give and take we play with the historically white institution of Hollywood for the sake of representation can only lead to the diversity we want and deserve. I want to see my mama on screen. And my niece. I want to see my friends, my peers... and all those who have given me the blessing of their support. Let’s continue to demand depictions that don’t placate European beauty standards. And after all this if you still don’t mess with the casting, hey, that’s your prerogative! But let’s show up to THUG for BLM, for rich and profound portrayals of contemporary black experience, for exploration of the nuance of bias, for black girl realness 😁, for family, for gun control, for speaking up and out, for Philando, Tamir, Eric, Michael, Sandra and all the black lives that have been taken for no reason. ✊🏽
Amandla also addressed some of their light skin privilege in the post. They wrote: "I navigate my industry with an acute awareness of how my accessibility contributes to the representation I am granted. I do so with a vigilance concerning the commodification of blackness and not taking up space that doesn’t belong to me."
Colourism is obviously a huge issue in Hollywood. More representations of dark-skinned protagonists need to make their way onto movie screens because black people come in many hues, sizes, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Not just as light-skinned women with loose curls.
The Hate U Give tells a story that is all too common in America today and black women are often leaders and organisers in the communities ravaged by police brutality.
Amandla is right in saying the conundrum of colourism won't be solved today, but acknowledging that they'd heard and valued people's concerns is powerful.