Screenwriting : Should you be writing for your own race? by Ally Shina

Ally Shina

Should you be writing for your own race?

Based on a previous thread by Rebecca D Robinson and a growing trend in Hollywood since the "black lives matter" movement, should screenwriters be writing for their own race?

Even the Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters. These changes are being implemented everywhere. And as a screenwriter who often struggles because I'm black and African people always expect me to be writing African stories like give me a break. I write Action and Fantasy primarily and African mythology is too gruesome for my taste (a wealth of horror material is all African mythology is) and I don't do horror. I try, I really try to write African stories but I get inspired by many things to write and I'm guilty of writing even more white male protagonists into existence. But the pressure to write black material is mounting on me and since it came up in the forum I thought hey, let's hear what you all have to say.

Am I wrong in writing whatever I want? Or is it my duty as a black person to write for my race? Please keep in mind that the only time I do write for my race is when I have a story to tell... I don't sit at my desk and be like mhmmm today, I'm going to write the next Black Panther. The same applies to all my other scripts, I never sit at my desk and think, yes, today it'd be nice to write a white woman's story. My work originates from my imagination most of the time, and it just depends on what I think is a worthy story to put on paper based on many factors. But I feel like now after 2020 if I like whip out a script I dreamt up about one of my white surfer friends people will be like hey woman, where is your black pride? Like now I have to trap my imagination in the colour of my skin....

And I won't. Nah, I definitely won't hey.

John Day

Ally, great post. I encountered the opposite situation last summer when I told my manager that I was interested in possibly writing a biopic of Arthur Ashe. I have played competitive tennis my whole life, NCAA, etc., but she steered me away from doing it because as a white male I could not adequately capture the black experience (or it could be perceived that way). I agreed and moved on to something else, but it was disappointing.

Eric Christopherson

Next we'll be asking whether we should only write our own gender. And those Sci-Fi writers are in real trouble. Who are they to presume to be an alien from another planet? No, it's the job of the storyteller to imagine any character. It's possible to create a believable character who is very different from yourself via research, observation, experience, and empathy. And I think an outsider's perspective can sometimes really add something. For example, Raymond Chandler grew up in Great Britain, but he became on of the great describers of mid 20th century Los Angeles.

Anthony Moore

I'm an African-American, but most of the main characters in my screenplays are not. I have scripts that have blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, women, children, even aliens as the main characters.I don't try to limit myself or use formulas to fit my scripts into a "box". I write "the story" that was inspired by an idea. The story tells me who the characters are and how they behave, not the other way around.

I do have a couple of stories with strong African-American leads but the stories told me who they were before I ever put pen to paper. Let the story lead you, not other people's opinion.

CJ Walley

This is a bold and well put together post, Ally Shina, and I admire you for writing it.

What matters is putting your own truths into your stories and how you communicate that is really up to you. Go with your inspiration and know this; while the writing may come from one person, a good productions will always become a team effort with everyone making a creative contribution.

You have a responsibility to your calling as an artist and that's it. It's personal and nobody should even feel the need to apologise for it.

Erik A. Jacobson

No, Ally, you shouldn't feel obligated to write about anything. Only write stories that stir your interest and imagination. At the same time, be aware that as a gifted writer in South Africa you have a unique opportunity to tell stories that others can't and would love to hear. I would check out writers/filmmakers such as Mira Nair, like you a female writer from another country (India), who used her background to write and film simple, universally-loved stories like 'Salaam Bombay', which people worldwide have enjoyed. It might be the story of a small child, of a mischievous pet monkey, or of an interesting family wedding which could rivet readers' attention outside South Africa and draw wide interest from Netflix and other distributors. If I were you I would fully embrace my background and heritage, not run from it. Best wishes!

Tony Ray

My 2 cents: the only obligation that you have, when it comes to what kinds of stories to tell, is the obligation you hold yourself to. If you want to tell an ethnic-specific story, tell an ethnic-specific story. The only obligation you have is to tell it well. Write your truths, and write them well. That's all you have to do.

Dan MaxXx

Brass tacks - prove to Employers and Buyers you can make $$$ as an artist. That's what corporate Hollywood cares about - "the Industry." Do you think Jordan Peele would've made "Get Out" if "Keanu" was a flop. Nobody hates Nia Vardalos writing and starring in "My Big fat Greek wedding." I think it's still the highest grossing indie movie of all time.

WL Wright

Sucks that you feel that way I mean as a writer for me the joy is in sitting and writing and see what pops out. I don't clutter my mind with politics etc because they aren't the writers they are the people who want to dictate and as a writer I am allergic to that ideology.

Jim Boston

Ally, keep writing the stories that you truly want to tell...the stories you feel deep inside you. (And all the VERY BEST to you!)

Rebecca D Robinson

Hi Ally, there's something I've been thinking about for a while, and that is that we are all a mish-mash of different ethnicities. All of us. All stories are OK. All stories are interesting.

Bill Costantini

Hi Ally,

I'm not a full-time screenwriter who has made a long living at this, but I think it's all relative to me. I write stories that are dear to my heart and that I think are marketable in some form - but the main story I'm working on right now was at the request of someone else. From a "Dear to My Heart" standpoint, it's probably fourth or fifth behind a few others. But I'm not going to turn down a request from someone who is in the industry; who I trust; and who can help further my creative writing goals.

I do admire writers who have made great careers on important socially relevant films - but I also admire anyone who makes a living at writing, too. Well...almost anyone. Heh-heh.

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Ally, and stay safe!

Doug Nelson

Yes - write for the human race [just my pov].

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services

Hi Ally, certainly a complex question. I'm seeing this as a similar topic in other posts and I hope I'm not over talking it. It's an issue I care deeply about but I know I'm no the most eloquent when discussing it.

I don't think you should ever feel pressured to write anything you don't want to write. I think the main issue is just that people should not be writing stories about an ethnicity or viewpoint that isn't their own, but only those stories specifically about that perspective. The Twitter outrage is one thing, and the taking the job from a BIPOC is another side of it. Writing a white or Black character doesn't always mean it's a white or Black story, but if a white person is writing a story about growing up Black in Harlem, well that's the issue.

And it doesn't just come down to content, it comes down to jobs. ScriptsByJames on Twitter is a great account to follow to hear more on that. A lot of writers who don't work in the industry yet, or haven't lived in LA and seen how it goes usually debate this, but you spend a few years here and you realize it really comes down to the jobs being handed out. There's still a lot of nepotism and racism. Most TV shows have long been known for having the single "diversity chair" and it's a thing a lot of people are getting frustrated about.

There needs to be representation in the writers room, representation in the spec feature sale market, and representation in the casting. So it's not about content so much as it's about inclusion, not forcing anyone to write certain stories, or telling them what they can't write (unless it doesn't belong to them which is the whole white people should stop telling Black stories, thing). And inclusion very much includes you writing your action and fantasy flicks. I hope that makes sense.

Pierre Langenegger

I agree, Doug, though sometimes we need to fill the roles for others as well. I already know finding an alien writing partner is bloody hard at times.

Tennyson Stead

Personally, I think there's a big difference between the pressure to share a culture just because we have the authority and the means to do so... and creating broader opportunities for better representation. If a character doesn't have to be white, or male, or privileged in some way, then why write them that way? To me, at least, that's a responsibility that we can all rally behind without losing any creative freedom.

As far as whether you owe the world stories about African folklore... that's a question that only yourself and today's keepers of African folklore can answer.

Martin Reese

As a Writer of Color I work on making my writing inclusive. I have never believed that you can't write about other races. You can as long as you do research and not just write stereotypes or caricatures. If you lock yourself into just writing say Black characters because you're Black or White characters because you're white or Asian characters because you're Asian then you are stifling your creativity and your growth. I would hate for someone to say "You can't write about Japanese samurai because you're not Japanese". I'm working on some projects based on African folklore. Now someone could say you "You ain't African. How are you writing stories from East or West Africa. How dare you appropriate those stories and bastardize them for your use." I do research though. Bottom line is write you want to write. If you can write a great story about your White surfer friend that's golden. Just be true to it. I think both Nick and Tennyson made good points. Man you could do a weekend seminar on this subject.

Rebecca D Robinson

Well said Nick and Tennyson.

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services

Yeah Martin I get caught in this a lot. I love samurai films. YOJIMBO is in my top ten of all time. I think it's totally okay to write genre flicks, or well-researched historical stuff. Japanese cinema is very genre-driven and inspired by American cinema anyway. The samurai films ripped off westerns and then westerns ripped off samurai films back and forth improving both along the way. I think it just can't be those personal, very real, history stories for a lot of America. Or anything with White Washing.

People boycotted THE GREAT WALL when it came out because Matt Damon was in it. And this was a frustrating/silly moment because it was judging before seeing (not that I heard it was great) but this was a dual production between China and the U.S., if this did well, it would have opened the door for so many more films like that. China wanted Damon in it because he sells tickets. It was a business move. But people jumped the gun because a white guy was in this Chinese fantasy flick, even though he was playing a Roman character I believe. So there's definitely a line, I think. I'm not sure I know what the line is, but I felt that was a silly moment that shut down a lot of future potential just because the trailers focused on Damon (which was probably a poor marketing move). A lot of that outrage was carried over from a previous moment with Damon getting heat for lack of inclusion, too. I don't know the full story here, but I remember the outrage from him being in it and thinking, "Wait but if this does well that's more Chinese/American films with diverse casts, which equals more jobs!" So that was a complicated situation.

On the other hand, people were furious about GREEN BOOK because basically everyone who worked on it was white, and the family of the character Mahershala played was cut out of the production and didn't agree with the story. And I think my generation especially (millennials) who are clamoring for jobs in the industry, are just tired of seeing a white guy write about slavery or a cis actor playing trans, or a non-disabled actor playing disabled, simply because those actors and writers exist and deserve work, too. And I think this is more clear cut. It's just not fair to take those jobs from people, or steal their life stories without permission, or tell a real story that doesn't belong to you unless you're given the blessing.

So there's a line somewhere, I don't know if I know it, but if we keep talking about it we'll all eventually figure it out. My personal thoughts right now are genre films are free game, stories personal to a specific life are more complicated and not so much free game, and can cause internet outrage and get your production cancelled, or film boycotted. And genre films come from all over. It's culture vs genre I think. Samurai films are a genre, but also a culture. So something like THE LAST SAMURAI is getting tiring for my generation (even though it's good) it's just, oh here's a white guy taking on someone else's culture when those characters could already be the focal point of the story. But something like YOJIMBO isn't a cultural story. It's simply a western with samurai. If that makes sense.

DANCES WITH WOLVES is an awesome example of a respectful film that isn't the white savior trope. Whereas LAST OF THE MOHICANS is the kind of thing that pisses people off these days. I definitely feel like entire semesters can be spent on this, Martin, so good call. It's just such a big thing. Love hearing everyone's perspectives on it, and learning.

Rebecca D Robinson

Nick, The Great Wall was one of the worst movies ever. Really terrible. I'm sure Matt is embarrassed he did it! Dances with Wolves - fantastic. I originally liked The Last of the Mohicans, but then felt it was a little dated. Great cinematography, tho. Cultural sensitivity is all, my friend.

WL Wright

Freedom of speech is for everyone in America not just those you agree with. If writers are censored it's just like the McCarthy era and that's not good for any writer or creative person or any American. Freedom is the biggest driver of creativity.

Martin Reese

Hey, Rebecca. Cultural sensitivity is indeed the key.

Richard Banton

First and foremost, do what YOU want.

Having said that, none of us write in a vaccum. We write to see our stories directed and produced in what is a frankly a very racist system. Black representation across genres is, to put it mildly, abysmal. And white writers are still more likely to get read, hired and produced. So, if the majority of them are telling white stories, then who is going to tell ours?

Now, you say that your work originates from your imagination, but your imagination is conditioned by whiteness. Why can't Protagonist X in your story be Black? Is it because you think non-white characters are defined by their race while white characters are not?

As a Black, queer writer the struggle is even more real. So, before I sit down to write a story, I ask myself these questions. Because the reality is, when writing within a racist system, you have to be intentional.

Craig D Griffiths

Ally Shina I hope we are never constrained to our genetics. Stories about 50 year old white guys living in Sydney would soon be boring.

I would like to think people are pushing you towards a narrative based in Africa because we don’t have people telling those stories. But that can be putting you in a box, which is equally bad.

I think of a writer as the herds and spices of a meal. We can all cook a piece of fish. The herds and spices we use is what makes it unique. Ally you bring something different than I do. That is what we do, we flavour our writing.

You write what you need to write. I promise you that a horror written by you is vastly different than a horror written by me. We have different lives that flavour our writing.

Ignore all opinion. Harvest it. Look at what you find helpful and disregard the rest.

Ally Shina

John Day, that's unfortunate. Your manager was probably only trying to do what's best for your career, the industry is making a shift in that direction anyway. It'd have been difficult for you to sell the script I think because right now the industry wants to see black writers telling our own stories. You shouldn't be too disappointed, your manager might've saved you a lot of time and frustration. There will be plenty other projects for you to sink your teeth into. Best of luck to you.

Ally Shina

Eric Christopherson, yeah... I agree with you. If we start saying we shouldn't write this or write that, we are setting a precedent for more censorship, but I doubt it will ever be as bad as writing for our own gender but I totally understand what you mean.

Ally Shina

Anthony Moore, you're absolutely right... I can't be sitting at my desk trying to write with other people's opinions ringing in my head. That would make it difficult to write because so many opinions from so many different people. Ai.

Ally Shina

Thanks for the high praise CJ Walley, it needed to be said. I'm so glad you agree that I should just write what I'm inspired to write, I've grown to value your opinion. Thank you.

Rebecca D Robinson

This was a nice thread, Ally! Thanks for giving a good twist on my more general question!

Ally Shina

Erik A. Jacobson, South Africa is rich in stories, but you must also keep in mind there is more to me than just my culture. I didn't grow up in the rural villages, I didn't fetch water from a river and live in a hut. So like, I have had experiences that have made me someone who is interested in telling stories about the whole world. I spent years of my life managing backpacker hostels on the coast in my country, from an early age I attended British colonialist primary school (I was one of the first kids in a group to be integrated into the all white school after South Africa won our new government), I studied cordon bleu cooking when I was in high school and my two favourite food in the whole world are ting (fermented South African maize porridge) and egg white soufflé omelettes, oh and cake. I live in Cape Town in the city but I still visit my aunts in the rural village sometimes. I am fortunate to have had the best of both worlds, and I my culture is not the only thing that will define my writing, my experiences also matter, and my experiences are both African and Western. So I will write whatever I'm inspired to write, and to be honest... Africa doesn't inspire me a whole lot. My experiences however... boy, I could tell you things about people in corners of the world nobody visits. I once met a bipolar surfer from the island Jersey who believed he was a superhero! Get outta town, enough people are writing African stories, I'ma write what I'm inspired to write.

Ally Shina

Tony Ray, thanks for being supportive. And you know what.. I don't feel obligated for any reason. I write what I want...

Ally Shina

Dan MaxXx You're right the bottom line will always be the bottom line in Hollywood, but films like My Big Fat Greet Wedding give me hope that even the little guy can still make bank so I just write...

Ally Shina

WL Wright, I most certainly won't allow the politics to dictate my writing. I was simply just asking if I'm wrong for not allowing the politics to dictate my writing. Thanks for speaking up so if I was doing it, you'd talk some sense into me.

And freedom of speech is life...

Ally Shina

Thanks for the support Jim Boston. Best wishes to you too.

Ally Shina

Rebecca D Robinson, all stories deserve a chance in the world because at least one person will like it.

Ally Shina

Phillip "Ubiquitous" Hardy, okay... I'm all for freedom of speech and writing whatever you want but you use the "N" word in your... ja.. no comment.

Ally Shina

Phillip, actually I do have a comment. I don't condone any white person using the "N" word for any reason. Films are entertainment, you're not curing cancer there is absolutely no need to offend anyone. Your whole thing made me uncomfortable.

Ally Shina

Bill Costantini, grab that opportunity with both hands and give it your best shot. Best of luck with the script.

Ally Shina

Doug Nelson, yes we must entertain our peoples!

Ally Shina

Nick Assunto, thanks for reassuring me not to feel pressured to write what I don't want to.

Well said Nick, and before this thread I might've disagreed with you. I always believed that people should write whatever they want but some things shouldn't be done like whie people writing black stories. I just got the shock of my life then you came along and made it make sense in intelligent terms. Thank you.

Yes, I hear it's difficult in LA. I was offered to come to LA but to work as a wardrobe assistant (I used to work as a wardrobe assistant on the big studio films when they shoot in my country) and I turned it down mainly because I didn't have enough scripts and working wardrobe is brutal work and I didn't want to be stuck doing it to pay the bills so I declined. This was in 2009 and things were even worse in Hollywood for black people. But I believe there are a lot of companies trying to be more inclusive lately... I'm a little more optimistic now than I was in 2009. But... yeah, Hollywood is accessible from home so I'm staying right here.

Ally Shina

Tennyson Stead, the keepers of African folklore are always looking for screenwriters to write for free... a lot of literature phds in my country always try to recruit screenwriters under the pretext that African folklore needs modern media representation so no cheque. I'm trying to make a career of writing... unless I'm writing the next Lion King, I'm at peace.

Ally Shina

Martin Reese, I agree with you. It'd be tragic if we were told we weren't allowed to write something because we are not directly associated with it but my mind has been changed... some people's stories should be left to them to tell. But yeah, it might just be the initial shock of an earlier comment talking though...

Ally Shina

Richard Banton, I take offense to the statement "your imagination is conditioned by whiteness" you have no idea who I am and what conditioned me to be who I am. If you're unhappy that I wrote a white protagonist just say so... don't make it personal guy.

You ask why the protagonist in my film can't be black? So if you ever wrote a film about apartheid in South Africa you'd change F.W De Klerk's character into a black person because he'd play a prominent role?

I'm not interested in black exclusive. Time's are changing, we coexist with white people now and I've fully embraced it...

Ally Shina

Craig D Griffiths, that's for encouraging me to write what I need to. Oh and if it happens that we are constrained to our genetics and you get bored writing about 50 year old white males living in sidney, you can always lobby to write about your younger self.

Rebecca D Robinson

Very good thread, Ally!

Ally Shina

Phillip, suppose there is still a lot of tolerance for racist content in the industry. I still think you were's entertainment, you're not curing cancer, why even go there? I'm not going to condone it just because some ignorant people did. I hope that if it's ever made into a film, it becomes a the racism scandal it ought to be. For shame...

Tennyson Stead

Ally Shina, that's hilarious. Everybody with a movie idea is looking for a screenwriter to work for free... and it seems like academics in the field of African folklore are no different! If it helps you out at all, I actually wrote an article for those people:

Richard Banton

Ally -- that comment was by no means an indictment or a judgment of you. As an American I am also conditioned by whiteness because I live in a society, much like yours, that still privileges white ppl. It's just a fact.

And to your point about a apartheid, that is a very clear exception and not at all what I was talking about. In a movie about racial segregation or set in that period, the race of each character will, of course, be critically important, especially if it's a true story.

I'm speaking about the other stories -- romantic dramas, comedies, thrillers, etc -- where what we see time and again is white leads. Why create more space and opportunity for them while YOU remain underrepresented? Why not make the lead in your fun surfer movie black? Why is that "trapping imagination" in a skin color? Is it hard to believe that there are black ppl that love to surf? Or is it just easier to imagine a white person in that mold?

Again, do whatever YOU want, but you're making a big mistake if you think colorblindness is a solution to anything, BUT more inequality.

Phillip "Reflective" Hardy

Ally: Four Negro Girls In A Church was finalist at Harlem International Film Festival and semi-finalist at Black Screenplays Matter. Both festivals run by people of color. So apparently they didn't get the same memo you received about racist content. (See Winter 2017 semi-finalists)

Additionally, here is what Matt Dy at Austin Film Festival said about FNGIAC:

Our readers felt that your script handled a very important historical event with grace, with dream sequences that prove to be the heart of your screenplay.

Here's what BlueCat Screenplay wrote about FNGIAC:

The greatest strength of Four Negro Girls in a Church is that it is a true story that very obviously required a great deal of research in order to write. The script is very informative about a piece of American history that everyone should know about. Because it is true, the story is so, so impactful. The writer cares a lot about this topic and this project, and that is certainly conveyed through every page of the script.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes which feature Martin Luther King Jr.. These scenes and his dialogue are incredibly impactful. The writer is wise to include him in this narrative as he is such an important figure in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. The writer has captured Martin Luther King Jr.’s spirit of leadership, and Four Negro Girls in a Church would not be the same without him.

The ending of Four Negro Girls in a Church is particularly powerful. I was happy to find out that Dynamite Bob and Bobby Frank spent the rest of their lives in prison. The crimes they committed are unspeakable, and the way their story pans out is particularly gratifying. As antagonists, these characters are fantastic! The writer has done a fantastic job of displaying the ways in which their personalities and ideologies differ from those of every other character. Their goals are in complete opposition to others, which helps to raise the stakes and create a great deal of conflict.

Lastly, the explosion scene on pages two and three is particularly harrowing and emotional. The writer has done a fantastic job of setting up the entire script with this inciting incident. This scene got my attention right away and pacing in this scene continued throughout much of the rest of the story. Sticking to three act structure so well is also a great testament to the skill of the writer!

Here is what Wildsound Feedback Film Festival said about FNGIAC

This is a wonderfully moving retelling of the story of the 16th Street

Baptist Church bombing of 1963, taking a deep look at some of the

characters involved and giving an almost unsettlingly unbiased account.

The script doesn’t ever lecture the audience in any way about right and

wrong, just provides characters and context and lets them come to their

own conclusions – it’s a subtle difference, but it’s one done incredibly

well and should be respected

I wrote this script to be more than just entertainment. I wanted it to be a powerful chronicle of the hatred that perpetrated the event and the love, dedication and healing that came after it. The Baptist Church bombing was one of meteors of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Though the title for this screenplay was taken from this New York Time headline from 1963.

I have fought against changing my title because of it's historical context but am now considering it so that I can get this work past people that judge by it's title alone and not it's content.

Finally, it's far too easy for people to point the finger of racism in today's society with little more than a baseless accusation. I originally posted in this thread to support you in writing what inspires you. Apparently, you don't think I deserve the same courtesy.

PS, to call the aforementioned sources and festivals supporting this work Ignorant is a knee-jerk reaction operating from a position of very little information.

Louisa Klein

This is totally unrelated, but your comment about African mythology truly intrigued me... can you tell us more?

Ally Shina

Phillip, your justification only made me even more concerned. You can be sure that even if you tell me that Obama himself gave you his approval I'd still think you're wrong. The "N" word Phillip? No. You clearly state that you didn't write the screenplay to entertain and your reasons just sound like you were going for shock value and you are masking it with some bubblegum wisdom that quite frankly won't work on me.

You've achieved what you wanted, your bubblegum wisdom and shock value makes it seem like your screenplay is a profound piece of literature but come on Phillip, you didn't have to use the "N" word true story or not. Steve McQueen did it in 12 Years A Slave and a lot of black people were unhappy but the film got high praise amongst industry professionals winning itself an impressive portfolio of awards. Which is why some festivals would see no problem in you writing the "N" word because it's being done in the industry, but that doesn't make it right. Also, I find it very strange that your screenplay seems to have been written and submitted into these festivals shortly after 12 Years A Slave's success. I believe that you are just one of those people who just couldn't resist using the "N" word because it was accepted. Heck, you put it in your screenplay's title guy way to milk it... No Phillip the title is not a true story, you could've have titled it something else and been a little sensitive with the usage of the word but no, not Phillip, you want it to be the first thing anyone reads on the cover of your screenplay and on the movie poster. Shock value much?

Whatever guy, you can also be sure that should your film be made into a movie I will be the loudest person on earth about it... LOUD! Unnecessary...

Ally Shina

Louisa Klein, African Mythology is quite dark. Witches, talking animals who behave like humans and lots of gorish type of stuff.

My favourite story is The Tale of Unanana. She is a mother and her kids get swallowed by an elephant. Unanana goes in search of her children but she is prepared to feed them (oh food is also a potent theme in African mythology because Africans calculated wealth on how well they ate in the past), she has with her a pot of beans, fire wood and a knife. While trying to find her children Unanana is swallowed by the same elephant who swallowed her children. Inside the elephant, she finds her kids and a small group of strangers the elephant swallowed. Unanana then cooks the pot of beans for her starving children but the strangers are also hungry. So Unanana starts cutting the elephant's meat from the inside and cooking it for the strangers. Then she finally cuts through the elephant so they all escape the dead elephant's stomach. Oh and keeping in mind, the elephant talks and sings on his journeys of devouring people...

I like Unanana's story because at least it has a happy ending, nobody lost a limb and everyone lives except the mean elephant. Happy endings are few and far in between in African mythology.

Louisa Klein

Ally Shina that is so weird, especially since elephants are herbivores! I mean, I could expect it from a lion, you know, but not an elephant. It reminds me a little of Pinocchio when he and Geppetto get swallowed by a whale (Geppetto literally “lives” inside the whale and there are also other people there).

Ally Shina

Tennyson Stead, getting paid millions to think of ideas for studios is the dream job. Great article.

Ally Shina

Richard Banton, you make very strong statements that it's kind of difficult not take them as an attack on my character. Colorblindness now? What the? ... I just won't even indulge the rest of it.

Okay I'll tell you why I didn't write a surf movie about a black person. South Africa is one of the world's leading surf destinations in the world. We have Jeffrey's bay (to explain why Jbay is surfer heaven I'd have to get into surf lingo and ocean stats, all you need to know is that Jbay is generous and epic).. The WSL even hosts sometimes even the finals of the international pro open in Jbay... mind you Jbay is just one location. We have great surf starting all the way at the top from St Lucia to the peninsula in Cape Town. I like to live in surf hostels on the coast for months at a time, I surf, write and bake fresh bread in the mornings for the sad French surfers who can't go without it. I'm actually an Executive Beach Bum in my county. I work for a lot of people on the coast on and off... my film is about a white surf hostel owner who runs an outreach programme for rural kids to surf in South Africa and his struggles with it. The film will hopefully feature some of the talented black surfer kids who I've met on the coast. The story is based on a true story and I worked for the protagonists... the surf program and I surfed with the kids. The story is inclusive, I just tell it from the POV that is most realistic to the circumstances. Black people surfing is a new thing... I have been doing it a long long time but I was always the black person amongst the white people (except Vukani a surf legend)... and surf gear isn't cheap. These kids need access to boards and wet suits to surf and there are a lot of kind hearted white people doing a great job of helping these children on our coast. Grooming them for the professional circuit and I want to tell the story because it's relevant now. Also if I don't... who will give these young kids opportunities to earn and make a name for themselves. I come a long way with surf movies, I worked Blue Crush when it shot in South Africa. Black surfer kids need to noticed too and the people getting them noticed are white... so hence the white surfer.

Leave me alone guy.

Nick Brown

Definitely do your thing! As writers, we have to go with the current project we're passionate about, whatever the characters, whatever the story. It can be difficult writing from the pov of different genders, races, ages etc but that's the challenge. Nobody has the right to tell you what to write!

Owen Mowatt

Ally Shina I think you're being a little over sensetive here to be honset. I've known of Phillips screenplay for over three years now and not once did I find the titlle offensive. In fact, I had to read Phil's link three times to try and find the N word, and in what context Phil was using it. Then I realised you meant, negro in the title??

I think, under the current racial climate Phil may want to rethink the title, but the idea that he went to so much time and effort to research and want to bring this story to screen, only to delibarately use an offensive/demeaning word to sell it to the very audience he is writing for, is completely ludicrous.

Ally Shina

Owen, yes... I'm very sensitive about racial slurs of any kind. I'm confused was the "N" word in the title when you first heard about the script three years ago? Or are you only noticing it in the title for the first time now?

Ally Shina

Nick Brown. I'm starting to think some people should be censored a little... and I mean censorship not subject matter.

Ally Shina

Louisa Klein, that's African mythology for you... all the herbivore animals eat meat. In fact in some of the animal stories where the animals behave like humans they eat other animals, it's really strange. I find it very difficult to visualise African myths into cinema so I don't really write African mythology screenplays. It's just too strange... Geppetto's story always sounded African to me but it's not.

Owen Mowatt

Ally, for clarity, as far as I know, the title has always been, Four Negro Girls In a Church, not Four Nigger Girls In A Church. There is a clear distinction between the two, the former is not the correct reference to the N word.

Instead of taking said offense to heart, you could have just opened a dialogue with Phillip and simply given him the opportunity to explain why he chose to use it, not immediately draw your own conclusion and dismiss him.

Marvin Serwanga

I think it's silly, as long as you're writing that character as a human being, race shouldn't matter in my opinion.

Ally Shina

Owen... learn your history you think it's okay to use the "N" word with an E like Phillip uses it then you clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Those two words mean the same thing.

As for giving him a chance to explain why he used it... yes, let's all become complacent and stop complaining about black people's circumstances in the world and give the racists a change explain themselves and if their bubblegum wisdom is worthy of being published on Amazon we should all just accept that being black means being marginalized, brutalized and all the other struggles black people face at the hands of white people daily. As long as they have good reasons... it's okay for them to use the "N" word... absolutely not!

Check yourself guy...

Jean Buschmann

My thinking is that the old adage "write what you know" needs to be updated to add "...and who you know." By that I mean stories should always be authentic, and research can only take a writer so far. It's getting to know actual flesh and blood people that will translate into writing great and diverse characters. Otherwise the results will be contrived, unrealistic, stereotypical, or worst of all exploitation for profit (the whole "cultural misappropriation" argument).

So I guess what I'm really trying to say is that this problem can be only be solved with expansiveness - by the way we live and the people we choose to know, respect, and interact with.

I grew up in a very working class part of NYC, with children of immigrants from every corner of the world. So when I write diverse characters they are coming from a place of "knowing" - not simply a clinical place of researching or observing. Keeping it 100, there's something about the latter that is slightly offensive to me - because we observe that which we keep at a distance. And it's that distance that seems to be the problem here - because it reveals a person's self-imposed boundaries that keep certain people out while allowing others in.

At the end of the day, we know authenticity when we see it - or rather feel it. Similar to how it's not so much the words people use (aka "the letter"), but the tone, delivery, context, and emphasis, (aka "the spirit") of what they're communicating that reveals intention or truth. Neither of which can be translated from a single word or phrase outside of its context and subtext. So we should not PRE-judge the desire or act of someone wanting to, or actually, writing characters outside their race or culture, but instead we should judge the result - with authenticity as the barometer for success. Knowing that to achieve authenticity, one must first experience something, or relate to someone, in a real way - and not just observe or research such things.

That's my take, for whatever it's worth.

Eric Christopherson

Ally, once upon a time in America (prior to 1970 perhaps) the N-word in Philip's title was considered the polite way to refer to African-Americans. (The other N-word has long been a verboten word.) It would strike me as odd if Philip had substituted "African-American" in his title because that usage wasn't around in 1963. It would strike me as odd too if Mark Twain's use of the N-word was removed from Huckleberry Finn. I believe in such a thing as artistic license. I don't believe in the indiscriminate use of words that offend others. Just my two cents.

Phillip "Reflective" Hardy

Eric: I stated my reason and put the link to the NY time article at the time of this heinous crime. That title was meant to invoke discussion and debate, which it recently has. I'm not unaware that this screenplay could probably get more attention if I removed the title and went with something more PC. If one reads the screenplay they will quickly understand it was meant to tell the story in an unbiased, historical way, while inserting a lot of raw emotion. The message of the work is clearly against racial hatred and bigotry. But one would have to read the screenplay to know that. In moving forward, I'll decide what I want to do and If I'm compromising my artistic values under mount PC pressure. By the way, I wouldn't remove a would from Huckleberry Finn. I stand against rewriting history to placate those offended by it. I'm a Jew offended by Holocaust deniers and have to fight kids in grammar school because of being a Jew. So I have more than minimal understanding of blind hatred. But this history of that horrible Nazi regime should stand as testimony to it's consummate evil.

Daniel Smith

Im a white guy and my fiancee is half black half native indian. She helps me write sometimes and in all that time we have never really thought about a character in terms of skin color. I leave that to casting to decide.

Phillip "Reflective" Hardy

Ally: You seem to play fast and loose with the facts. Never in my text did I use the term shock value. Nor did I say I didn't wish to entertain. If you wish to quote me correctly, this is what I said:

I wrote this script to be more than just entertainment. I wanted it to be a powerful chronicle of the hatred that perpetrated the event and the love, dedication and healing that came after it. The Baptist Church bombing was one of meteors of the American Civil Rights Movement.

I'm bowing out of this thread because I see further discussion with you would be fruitless. I'm sorry if inadvertently hijacked your thread but I stand by my work and principles. If you would like me to delete my contributions to thread just let me know.

Rebecca D Robinson

Ally, Eric is correct. The word "Negro" was an adjective, not a slur. It is now out of fashion, and correctly so, but it was used for many years as a descriptor. It also harkens to the era in which the bombing took place, so it's accurate to its time. It sounds like a great film and one which I would like to see.

Karen E Ross

I think you have to write the stories you feel comfortable and compelled to write. Writing in a box based on other people's expectations of you is still a version of marginalization. And if you write a well-rounded character, then you give the director and casting director the chance to make the call to diversify. Similarly, if white people are restricted to only writing white characters, then we're not really allowing for equal opportunity. However, I do believe in getting feedback from people who would know better. I wrote a short about a tarot reader and decided I wanted her to be Latina, so I reached out to some of my Latina friends who could give me notes. There are ways to honor the material - keep doing you!

Have you seen This Changes Everything?

Erik A. Jacobson

Ally ~ Thanks for your extensive explanation of your back ground. After reading it I can only agree - write your surfer story! It provides the perfect opportunity to showcase a cause and individuals most people know nothing about, plus introduce the world to South Africa's beautiful beaches. I've been to Hawaii seven times, spent lots of time with the famous Rick Irons surfing clan, and even made a small North Shore surf movie there myself for a no-budget $135,000, which has surprisingly returned about $900,000. Have also spent time in legendary Durban surfer Shaun Thomson's So. Cal surf shop. All to say, I understand the allure of the surfing world. By all means, go for it!

Ally Shina

Eric and Rebecca be rewriting history now to claim the "N" word was a polite term. I refuse to indulge you two... just shocking.

Ally Shina

Whatever Phillip and your bubblegum wisdom...

Maurice Vaughan

It's fun and challenging to write other races.

Ally Shina

Erik A. Jacobson, thanks for being stoked about my surf movie.

Hawaii, Rick Irons surf clan is a dream of mine you lucky fish! I haven't been to Hawaii, I'm too caught up in Jbay and rural village waves like Coffee Bay, Mfazazaan, oh and Southbroom isn't rural but I love it there. Mdumbi, Cintsa... etc. I'm so spoilt in SA that I don't ever get round to traveling for surf. And the other thing about SA is that everyone comes here so I never need to go anywhere... and there is always something happening on our coast but Coronavis has taught me a lesson. Life is unpredictable... when all of this is over I'm packing my surfboard and laptop surfing the world until I shred my passport. Shaun Thompson... there are a lot of local frothers in Durban, I know where Shaun surfs in Durban but yeah local frothers and I try avoid dramatic line ups. Otherwise I'd try surf with Shaun... surf life is fun and healthy. Also surfers are so easy... I am lucky to have my life.

Congratulations on making such a huge return on your surf movie. I'd like to see it... as you know there are a lot of surf movies out there but very few narrative surf films. I hope yours is a story... it'd be a real treat for me to watch.

Thanks Eric, I enjoyed your comment a lot.

Owen Mowatt

I think you need to get that chip off your shoulder, Ally. You have a shockingly regressive and ignorant attitude towards racial issues.

I came in late t this thread, but I'm done with it.

Ally Shina

Nicholas in Seattle, you're right. It's always better to write from personal experience than when writing from an outside perspective.

Goodluck with the book series. Happy writing!

Ally Shina

Daniel Smith, I do the same thing most of the time. Good call...

Doug Nelson

Language, it's use and meaning/nuances is ever evolving. Correct historical use is paramount in writing dialog in period pieces while remaining current in writing action/description. Otherwise your characters are out of sync with their own era.

Rebecca D Robinson

Owen Mowett, I completely agree. Ally needs to know her American history.

Jean Buschmann

For the record, all you have to do is look up my IMDB profile and you'll quickly see that as a biracial multicultural person I have always striven to represent, so to speak. That being said, there is no question that the American vernacular has continuously shifted with regard to the social and politically correct term for people of color, especially so for African-Americans. As the NPR article below does good job of explaining. Obviously, this is a sensitive subject, but we must be factual.

Still, Americans on this forum need also understand that just because a term was considered acceptable here does not mean it was ever universal. In that sense, there is not an actual "right or wrong" in this discussion, and like with any discussion the goal should ideally be to come away with a better mutual understanding and respect. So it actually saddens me to see how contentious this thread has become.

I mean c'mon people, if there was ever a time to set aside pride, ego, defensiveness, or the need to be right at all costs - that time is NOW. Look at everything we've collectively experienced over the last few weeks. We need to build bridges, not walls.

"If not us, then who? If not now, then when." - John Lewis, Senator & Civil Rights Leader

Love & Peace

Here's that NPR link:

P.S. To be clear, in case someone lands here late...

My understanding is that the above debate was about the word "Negro" - which while outdated and MOST DEFINITELY offensive now, was once thought of as the socially acceptable term (in the United States, but not necessarily elsewhere), as was "colored" - which is now also offensive, and has been replaced by "people of color." A term that very well may itself become outdated and offensive at some point. But what is most commonly known as "the N word" was not being argued about - at least not to my knowledge. Since that vile word has such a shameful history of hate attached to it, I wouldn't want anyone to misunderstand the nature of the debate some where having above, especially since "Negro" was at times being called "the N word."

Anyway, here is an excerpt from the NPR article that says it best -

In a 1988 New York Times column about the phrase, the late great language maven William Safire pointed out that Martin Luther King Jr. referred to "citizens of color" in his speech at the 1963 March on Washington. Safire also quoted an NAACP spokesman:

" 'Times change and terms change. Racial designations go through phases; at one time Negro was accepted, at an earlier time colored and so on. This organization has been in existence for 80 years and the initials NAACP are part of the American vocabulary, firmly embedded in the national consciousness, and we feel it would not be to our benefit to change our name.' "

Safire continued in that 1988 essay:

"Colored people (which in South Africa means 'people of racially mixed ancestry') has in the United States a connotation different from people of color. ... Colored is often taken as a slur, even when not so intended, and so this term — first used with this meaning in 1611 by the historian John Speed as 'coloured countenances' — is better replaced by its synonym as noun and adjective, black. People of color, on the other hand, is a phrase encompassing all nonwhites. ... When used by whites, people of color usually carries a friendly and respectful connotation, but should not be used as a synonym for black; it refers to all racial groups that are not white."

Ally Shina

Jean Buschmann, Well written comment. I understand that you mean people should write from experience when writing material that is relevant to actuality and you make brilliant points about I do however have to point out that it doesn't necessarily apply to all types of scripts like Fanstasies where the writer writes a world that doesn't exist so they can experience it...

Ally Shina

I will no longer discuss Phillip's usage of the "N" word because I'm not about trying to change people, an excercise in futility because human beings hey? I am one... and just like I won't bother try to change you, you can't change me either. Yes, the "N" word is creeping it's way out of the history books into the mainstream but I still refuse to condone it.

Thom Reese

Ally, I'm a white male. I've been a published author for about a decade and am now moving into screenwriting. I've always had multi-racial casts in my novels, but as I've moved to screenwriting I've heard a lot of things that made me wonder if I have the "right" to write a black or Latino character. I was counseled that I should indeed do so, especially since I don't cast them in stereotypical roles, that this gives these people a chance at roles. The only thing I was cautioned to stay away from was writing a story that deals with the black experience, as I wouldn't be qualified to write that. I think the same should apply to your situation. Write the story and characters that you feel compelled to write. That's what will be authentic.

M L.

I think the question is not whether a white writer can write an asian character. Obviously that's fine and the reverse is true. But, should a white writer, write a movie like The Farewell? Or a show like Insecure. My gut instinct tells me, ...probably not. But only because the writers POV would be based on a ton of research and there would be very little personal insight into the world. So it would have a higher probability of ringing slightly false and cliched.

Duncan Star-boszko

Here's what I'm curious for writer's opinions: If a white writer is writing another race's perspective on a feature, do you think it would be a good idea reach out to a screenwriter of that race to co-write the piece with, or just stick with the tried trade of doing the research (as all writers should do) and hiring a sensitivity reader.

Karen E Ross

Thank you for such a thoughtful response, Jean Buschmann! In short addition, I'd like to note the importance of listening and responding in the moment. I was raised in the DC where "African-American" was the norm. But in the last couple of years, a few friends of mine, who happen to be people of color, mentioned that they prefer to be called "Black" because otherwise it implies that their parents are African when they aren't - they are American. It was a good point, one that I had not considered, and began implementing because of the feedback. I had a similar experience when a student asked me to stop referring to them as "she" for the preferred "they". Honoring the request, in my opinion, is part of the process.

Jean Buschmann

Ally Shina I added an important P.S. to my second comment above, and then still had to revise it a few times for clarity's sake - because it actually would pain me to think you were feeling invalidated. I don't believe that anyone has a right to tell you how you should feel about this issue, or any one word. But I do think that people are talking about two completely different topics here - which is why I added that P.S. for clarity. So I hope you'll scroll up and see where I am in complete agreement with you. ;)

Jean Buschmann

Karen E Ross I know just what you mean. Back in the late 90's, many of my black friends likewise made it clear that they felt the term "African-American" negated their American birthright - and so was actually offensive to them. On a somewhat related and comedic note, my Mexican-American husband just listed himself as "Mexican" on the 2020 Census - which caused some of his siblings great concern - because they were sure that would be misinterpreted by the Trump administration as meaning he was here illegally. LOL Even though he was born here. I too thought it odd that he identified with being "Mexican". So I reminded him that there was actually a designated term just for people like him - "Chicano" - but he didn't see it on the form, and thinks it sounds pretentious. So there ya' go! You're absolutely right - It's best to ask people what they prefer to be called. :) Although if I'm being completely honest, I have to confess that I wound up doing a double Census household filing, under my name, just so I could list him as American by birth but Hispanic by case his siblings were right. :)

Eric Christopherson

Ally, if you think I'm rewriting American history, I am not, and I invite you to read, or reread, MLK's famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" as proof.

Rebecca D Robinson

I'm with you, Eric.

Ally Shina

Karen E Ross, you're absolutely right... Consultation when writing about people you aren't personally associated with is key. Nice comment.

Ally Shina

Eric, I'm addressing you for the last time because quite frankly, you're infuriating me right now. Wow, your proof of the "N" word being a friendly term is a letter a black man wrote while he was imprisoned by a white oppressive system? Do you even know what white people made black people do in those jails while they were locked up? And I refuse to have you challenge me... my family comes a long way with the ANC in South Africa, I grew up in a house that was an ANC safehouse. We secretly took in rebels against the apartheid government, my uncle was a liberation hero and I know the Truth and reconciliation commission of South Africa's hearings like the back of my hand. Don't tell me nothing about some letter that was written by a black man in prison... even today South Africa is dealing with retractions.

Just leave me alone Eric...

Ruben L. Martinez

Great comments, J. But hey Lucy, you got some serious Census ''splaining to do. And btw, you're making way too much sense.

Ally Shina

M L. Before this thread I might've disagreed with you but right now I strongly agree.

Ally Shina

Jean Buschmann, thank you for understanding where I'm coming from. You speak very well. However I will no longer discuss the topic.

Take care.

Ally Shina

Duncan's Star-boszko, you should consider starting a new topic with that question. It's a really good question that may go unnoticed in this thread.

Dan MaxXx

Many folks think showrunner Damon Lindelof (white guy) hit a homerun with "Watchmen" tv series that deals with racism, white supremacists, police brutality. The breakdown of their writers' room. 12 writers. 4 White Men, 8 WOC/POC. The pilot episode opens with 1921 Tulsa massacre.

Eric Christopherson

Ally, you could read the text of MLK's final speech, which was delivered in front of an all-black church, and my same point would be made.

J. S. LaVail

"Am I wrong in writing whatever I want?"


WL Wright

This post has gone hog wild. My big Q is who speaks for every race, culture etc. ???? I think reaching for the impossible is within all of us that pursue our dreams in a place that the odds are wildly insane. But we have to come down to reality because no one person or group speaks for every race, nationality whatever. There are those that say they do but for every one of those there are a always too many in that same group who disagree. We strive for the same in a world where we are in fact all completely different DNA as incredible as that is.

Bill Costantini

Hi WL,

Eh....I've been here for five or six years now, and threads regarding race unfortunately have gone a bit sideways at times.

Not related to the disagreements posted above, but this might be a good place for me to re-post the 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report. The report has been created by the UCLA Department of Social Studies for six or seven years now. Here's the link for those who are interested.

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors all, and stay safe!

WL Wright

Hey Bill there's always a study to support whatever. You can always find an expert to say this or that when paid or it's some group with larger intentions for social control. I've seen too much of that in the reality we actually live in. I like seeing more races etc. represented in movies etc. that's aligns more with reality in America now. But everything is also a changing landscape in America. People refuse to accept that and want to get pissed off over past history instead of seeing how far we have all come even with totally different DNA in each and every one of us. America is a wonderous land of trying to be better but we can't forget that freedom and liberty got us this far. Abandoning that means less creativity and that's been true across the board in all other systems that wanted to force artists into their political agenda. We are the biggest or one of the biggest in creative output because we have been free at a level unknown in any other place or time, up to now. It matters, the Scarlet Letter is always on the wrong side of it all.

Ally Shina

Hey WL Wright, you're right... I didn't anticipate that the thread would go south. I guess up until now this has always seemed like a friendly place for any type of discussion but I'll be careful what to post in future...

Ally Shina

Bill Constantini... thanks for the heads up. I will be avoiding threads regarding race from now on.

I was going to read the UCLA report then I realised that it has stats dating well into the future, all the way to 2050. And unfortunately I don't really like to listen to people who think they can predict the future. Did they predict coronavirus? Non of them did.. not a single one. We didn't even have one weird guy on the news who was holding up an "the end is near" sign for coronavirus. So no...

Gene Cartwright

Power to you, Ally. First, race is inescapable; this is America. Problems regarding race persist because too many pretend it does not exist. When I guested on Oprah, years ago - along with Chuck D and others, the subject of the show was "Who's Black Enough?" She invited me to discus my first novel, I Never Played Catch With My Father, which defied the expected and features a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed billionaire. I was asked why my main character was white. My answer: he's white because his mother and father are.

The truth is, major publishers and whites - generally - assume that if you're black, you must surely only write about black life and black characters. No one assumes that of white writers, who feel free to write about us or anything else, including aliens.

My third novel (of 12 to date), A Family Gathering, is a epic novel (512p with completed screenplay) featuring more than 30 characters, mostly black. Some said it was "too black." I give no notice to any such b.s. I write. No one tells James Patterson how black or white his characters are.

Bottom line: I follow my creativity wherever it leads. Be true to yourself. Period. Gene - (novels/screenplays/short films/features, etc.) See my Ebony feature, anymore at my website. Let nothing or no one stop you.

Ally Shina

Gene Cartwright, I'm so glad you shared your experience, I'll be a lot more confident in my work thanks to you. You're absolutely right, who writes the aliens then if we are going to start categorising our writing by race?

I really enjoyed your comment.

Ally Shina

A. S. Templeton... ah, why. so cynical? I believe if the whole world woke up and we were all one skin colour there'd be more joy, inclusion and societal harmony.

Brad Havens

Just my two cents, but since you're asking: it has been my experience that the majority of screenplays go through a series of revisions the moment they get greenlit for production, so a screenwriter should write the most emotionally authentic story that appeals to them, because once their screenplay is sold, it literally is no longer their story to tell. As an example, Beverly Hills Cop was originally written as a vehicle for Sylvester Stallone, but he chose to pass on the project because he was bored doing cop movies, so the script was reworked for Eddie Murphy and became a comedy.

As to your question about voice-over actors, one thing a lot of people miss in this conversation is the economic factor, which is to say that voice-over actors are hired specifically for their vocal versatility. Using the example of The Simpsons, you may notice that some of those voice actors play up to a dozen characters or more. To restrict a performer from a job based on skin color when their voice is really the only requirement for the job suddenly imposes the need to increase your budget to hire more actors to play these multiple roles based on their skin color. By that logic, voice-over actors of every ethnicity will now become hamstrung by this decision - you can't hire a black actor to voice a white character now, it wouldn't be "fair" would it? - and production cost for performers will go up. Effectively, this perspective is simply perpetuating systemic racism, only it is currently politically acceptable racism. I guarantee you, once producers feel that the public is no longer so sensitive towards these questions they will return to the most cost-effective economic model possible, and that means hiring the best person for the job regardless of their skin color.

A. S. Templeton

Ally Shina not cynicism--just awareness of the laws of nature, to which homo sapiens is not immune. A honey bee queen transferred from one hive to another will, despite her royal status, be mobbed and smothered to death for being an outsider. Two racially uniform human communities end up at each other's throats over doctrinal differences, e.g. Catholic vs. Protestant.

How an individual rises above nature and tribalism is the interesting story, as is the tragic failure of another to do so.

Craig Prickett

I can't see how I or anyone else can write an inclusive story if we can't write all races and cultures.

Ally Shina

A. S. Templeton, I won't disagree with you because I've been told I'm too optimistic about people sometimes. It's just nicer to think the best of people until proven wrong.

Ally Shina

Brad Havens, Producers will most certainly return to the most cost effective economic model should people no longer make an issue of race. I'm still unsure what to make of the whole situation at The Simpsons where white actors will no longer voice non-white actors. It's kind of strange, but that's what's relevant to the society we live in today because of the effects of recent events. Maybe things do calm down and it becomes a non issue and actors can voice characters of any race regardless of their own race but until then, these changes are necessary to shock Hollywood into being a little more inclusive so I'm not against it. I support the drastic changes that are being made by companies who are trying to be more inclusive no matter how impractical it may seem. In fact your comment only made me appreciate it even more because some of the productions are incurring extra production costs to implement these changes. I respect that, especially from an industry that is always out to save a buck.

Brad Havens

I am speaking specifically and exclusively of the voice over world here: Are these changes really necessary? Why not fund newer more original more inclusive projects? Oh that's right it's too expensive. It is actually much cheaper to do what has been done than to truly address this issue at its core.

To me this is like Natalie Portman wearing a dress of female Directors she never hired to chastise the industry she works in for not hiring these women. Simpsons has been around for decades, and retained its original cast through most of that time. What happened to their show is the result of literally one person who made it his personal crusade to recast Apu, and he demanded to play the role himself. I don't know if he actually got the role or they gave it to someone else but this sets up a slippery precedent, as mentioned before. Once Simpsons gave in to that guy all of the other animation shows fell in line to avoid looking insensitive to an already hypersensitive public.

I'm not sure if you're aware, but in animation, most of the children's roles are voiced by women. Bart Simpson is voiced by a woman. By an extension of this same logic, only women should voice female roles and only men should voice male roles. But women voice boys in animation because their vocal range makes it sound more believable than when a man tries to voice a boy. Does that matter to this line of thinking though? It shouldn't, but now this precedent adds more weight to this question. Gay and straight characters should only be played by those people who identify respectively, right? If you are demanding such specificity in casting from the voiceover world than all of these conclusions are correct. The result: instead of hiring one person who is capable of performing multiple roles regardless of gender or ethnicity, you would now have to hire for each and every one of those individual characters. Budgets go up, funding for the types of shows being produced becomes more limited, so actors who are already constrained by this form of bigotry lose out on even more roles because there are less jobs available overall. The long-term consequences are far more expensive than the short-term political positivity.

Further still, simply being cast as the character doesn't change the storyline of the show. Apu is not going to become a central character in The Simpsons, so what did this person demanding to play Apu truly accomplish in terms of progress? I'm all for inclusivity, but by the same token, being more divisive by insisting the focus remain on skin color, cultural origin, sex or religion is the wrong way to go, in my humble opinion, especially when you're talking about voice over work. Also consider that we have laws which are specifically intended to prevent this type of thing from happening which are blatantly being abused to appeal to this limited mentality. Hiring or firing based on skin color is supposed to be a Federal crime. All I see happening is just more of the same from a different direction, and no I don't really think I can call that progress.

Jean Buschmann

I somehow think this sentiment is not reflective of the current pendulum swing - or rather much necessary correction. Although there are multiple issues laced into this thread, I firmly believe that it's always all about intention. For example, if a writer wants to exploit any one group to tell a story that they themselves have not at least attempted to connect to (i.e. by meeting the people it most affects and really listening to what THEY have to say in order to best tell THEIR story), then such a writer likely will attract rightful criticism for trying to make a name for themselves and/or profit off of someone else's pain. (Which is probably as low as the moral barometer goes.)

In contrast, if a writer instead wants to share the plight of any one person or group in a way that honors the truth of their story, and in the process builds awareness and empathy - that should be applauded as a noble venture.

On the surface these two writer's projects may resemble each other, but upon closer examination, they'll each reveal which foundation was laid - honor or exploitation. So we should never lump both writers into the same category and accuse each of misappropriation - that would be a travesty. Yet I fear the hyper "PC" culture is heading that way.

On the flip-side, and I'm sure this will sound like a contradiction to some, given what I just said above...

I think casting directors should strive to give roles written for persons of color to persons of color. I felt that way before the recent protests, but even more so because of them. I think people who disagree should listen to all the many prominent actors of color who have recently given voice to their struggles with systemic racism in Hollywood. Their stories bare witness and should matter more than our personal opinions on the subject.

To me, my differing views are not contradictory, btw, because writing and acting are not the same. Writing is a solitary action, and performing is a public one. As noted above, I distinguish writers by intention, so I'm not giving every writer a free pass, so to speak. But actors literally embody a role, and so physicality is part of that, it just is. As for voice-over actors, how is "acting black" any different from performing in "black face" - I don't see a difference.

On top of that, the reality of systemic racism means that very talented and worthy actors of color are not even being given a fair chance at playing such roles. That makes no sense to me.

I remember watching WEST SIDE STORY as a young child and asking my Puerto Rican mother why some of the lead actors were so obviously not Puerto Rican (even as a six year old half-Nuyorican I could tell how contrived their accents were). If you don't think it matters, imagine an American being cast in the role Dev Patel played in Slumdog Millionaire. Or even a Latin actor being cast Muhammad Ali.

Just because something has always happened in the past doesn't make it right, even when it's more practical.

Brad Havens

The West Side Story example is a good one - how long ago was that made? 50-60 years ago? It reflects the Studio Productions of the era, where, again, the focus was on the broadest appeal to the largest paying demographic. Spielberg happens to be remaking that movie right now with proper casting. He has that ability not only because of the politics, but also because of the amount of talent that is currently available to allow for such broad casting, unlike 50 or 60 years ago. This is not to say the talent was unavailable 50 or 60 years ago, it is moreover an acknowledgement that the Studio system did not develop them to be celebrities in the same manner as, say, Natalie Wood was groomed to be a star. But don't forget Rita Moreno was a star in that movie as well, so even then there was some attempt, however feeble it may have been.

As to your question about voice-over actors, I think you miss my point, which was that not all voice actors are Caucasian. There is no mockery or malicious intent in these performances, there is simply the necessity to perform an authentic sounding voice to lend Humanity to a cartoon character, and deliver before the deadline. The best voice-over actors are basically required to be able to deliver multiple character voices if they want to work in animation.

Boondocks is a great example of an animation series that worked, and to my knowledge, there were no white performers cast in lead roles, yet they still had characters of multiple ethnicities in their show in pretty much every episode. By setting a precedent of casting based on skin color in a realm where normally that should not matter as much as it does with on-camera performance, you are ultimately limiting the already limited playing field for performers of every ethnicity.

So then again, where does it stop? Will other actors who have played a role for years suddenly be fired simply because of the color of the skin? What about those who dub languages? Should only Japanese voice-over actors be hired to speak English in Japanese animation? By that logic should we only hire a French person to speak the English translations in French Cinema? Will the women who voice younger male characters be forced out of those jobs based on their gender? Gay people play straight characters all the time, both on camera and in the voice-over world, should that still be allowed? What about audiobooks, which are commonly voiced by one person who plays narrator as well as all of the characters regardless of gender or ethnicity - should that no longer be allowed to happen as well?

All of these questions have one deciding factor to their equations - the Producers and Distributors that fund the creation of this content. Make no mistake, they are not into it for political points, they are into it for profit. Again, much more cost effective to fire and replace an actor than to actually fund an entire series that meets the same goals much more effectively. People will nod their approval and soon forget that the system still has not changed. It is simply bigotry they approve of, and once momentarily satisfied, will become ignored once again. Or it could lead to this much larger, much more divisive and paranoid ripple effect.

To my mind, that is the best solution to this entire problem: create more work and hire more people. We know that there are thousands of stories out there that we never have the opportunity to hear or see or experience. This temporary solution is still public approved systemic racism, just from a different direction. If people truly want broader authentic representation, then the target for this outrage should be focused on these Producers and Distributors, not the individual actors who actually created these characters when the respective show began.

I don't know if you noticed, but this individual who rose a stink about the Simpsons and demanded to be cast as Apu didn't seem bothered that the same actor in question also played other characters of different ethnicities, he only focused on the one that he cared about. To my knowledge, they aren't doing any other special casting to accommodate those other characters only Apu. So again I ask what kind of progress does that really accomplish?

At this point, I should probably mention that I used to work for a talent agency that cast voice-over actors for multiple projects from animation to commercials, etc. and I had the good fortune to meet hundreds of incredibly talented people from all sorts of backgrounds. One of the funniest auditions I ever recorded was where we deliberately swapped roles of the performers and had them bring their talents to characters they normally wouldn't have played - black male cast as white female for example - and they were brilliant. So, particularly in the voiceover world, I think performers should be allowed as much creative freedom as possible to get their best work out of them.

When I write my screenplays, I try to stick to the most genuine emotional motivations as humanly possible. I don't write for gender or ethnicity unless there is something about those particular aspects of character that are necessary to telling the story. I do this specifically because, as stated above, I believe screenplays become subjected to revisions the moment they are sold, and I want my stories to appeal to the broadest audiences possible. If that means, for the sake of production, a producer wants to hire a particular actor, or change the context of a scene, that will be up to them. Once the story is sold, unless I am still attached as the principal writer on that project, I expect that movie to be very different from what I envisioned in my head as a final product. So to me the obligation of the screenwriter is to create stories that have authentic human emotion, and that emotion helps reveal character motivations. After that, if someone wants to see that character as white or black or Korean or Pakistani, then go nuts.

I enjoy the creative process enough to be excited by the opportunity to work with as many artists from as many different disciplines as possible. As long as the work feels authentic and appealing, I'm not so concerned about the rest of it.

Jean Buschmann

Brad Havens, first let me say that I really respect how thoughtful you are (in the truest sense of the word) about this subject. I definitely see where you're coming from, and don't claim to have the all the answers either. But what is painfully obvious is that Hollywood has long been the power playground of mostly white males. Has it changed some? Sure, and that's great. But does it reflect the very large and active media-consuming people-of-color multifaceted demographic? Not by a long-shot. Because of this, historically Hollywood became a purveyor of systemic racism simply by continually perpetuating racial stereotypes, written by people who are not of color writing about people of color. That's undeniable.

That then fed back on itself like a giant Ouroboros eating its tale - because those same stereotypes seeped into pop-culture's consciousness - which includes said white Hollywood executives themselves. Consequently making some far less willing or likely to understand, let alone cast people of color - who they viewed/view as "other." Once that "other" line is drawn it's extremely difficult to erase. Usually that can only be achieved by personal experience that contradicts negative stereotypes, or by the evolution of one's consciousness - which makes a person realize that ultimately there is only one race, the human race. But unfortunately, that's not where we are as a society. As evidenced by the callous way some police officers have been filmed ruthlessly terminating the lives of various black men, and then in the most reprehensible of such circumstances, wearing said extermination level use of force like a badge of honor. An inhumane and incomprehensible fact that makes those specific officers no different than cold-blooded murderers.

So with that being the backdrop of how we got to this juncture - a time when people are quitting jobs that cast white actors as black characters, it's understandable that there be an attempt to fix the problem of systemic racism across the board. To suggest that there should not be any correction is tantamount to saying that in the post "#me too" era things need not have changed at all. People must understand that making that argument winds up pouring salt directly into a very fresh wound.

A systemic practical problem, like say a backed-up pipe system, requires a flushing out of the sludge. Will that flushing-out process wind up leaving some great people out of work? No doubt about it. But let's not forget that the original problem left tons of talented hard-working people without access to gainful employment to begin with.


For the record, I was not alive when the original movie was released, but over a decade later I watched it as a young child. (And was completely traumatized by the ending - unable to swallow for hours after Tony died in front of my eyes...on screen. But I digress.) I agree that Spielberg deserves some credit for casting Latin actors this time around - but the new film is not without its controversies. The first being the perpetuation of incorrect sentiment about the Island itself - since Puerto Ricans (who are U.S. Citizens by birth) have only ever left their beloved homeland out of economic necessity. The lyrics to many of the popular songs in the musical belie this fact. As a result, many Puerto Ricans have always resented that. If you know any personally, you know how much pride is taken in the PR flag. The Island itself is affectionately known as "La Isla Del Encanto" - meaning "The Enchanted Island." And so song lyrics that insult the Island most definitely do not reflect a typical Boricua's (PR-born person's) sentiment toward the Island, in the slightest. Which makes such lyrics a slight. The second controversy around the new movie is that it still perpetuates the same old stereotypes - namely that most Puerto Ricans are gang members.

I actually have deep-rooted connections to Westside Story. Besides it being the first play I went to see on Broadway (for my 13th birthday) - my mother's family came to the U.S. in 1948, and initially settled on the west side of Manhattan. Where my grandfather ran a successful travel agency that one of his two sons eventually proudly took over and ran for decades. My other uncle, on the other hand, could have been the inspiration for West Side Story. (It's a running joke.) Since he was a young teen who hid his big heart behind a tough exterior that was instantly developed upon arrival on the island of Manhattan, after discovering how very hostile some of the natives were - treating him with cruel and brutal disdain and disrespect, solely for having chocolate brown skin. So he wound up in a gang at 14, more for survival than anything else. He then became a leader (gang lord) and shot an Irish rival gang lord in the butt.

To their credit, the people who ran the juvie center he wound up in could see that he was just "fronting" as a tough guy to compensate for his small size and big problems fitting into an extremely hostile environment. That same Uncle Ephrain was a brilliant man who went on to get his Ph.D, and became a devotee of classic philosophy, literature and music. Oddly, to the exclusion of the music that his culture created. On his deathbed, at a V.A. hospital, I slowly re-introduced him to Salsa music - since I wanted to restore the pride that clearly was shamed and beaten right out of him as a child. I knew I'd succeeded to some small extent when, in a semi-lucid state, he did a shoulder shimmy to a classic Salsa beat. :)

My own experience being part Puerto Rican was entirely different, because in her wisdom, my mother (who was actually a dead ringer for Natalie Wood - which is yet another odd emotional connection I have to the film), made a point to adamantly tell me that whenever ignorant and racist comments about me being Puerto Rican were made, I should look the person right in the eyes and say "I'm as American as you." - Such remarks were more often made by the parents of the neighborhood kids I hung out with - not the kids themselves. Ironically, many of those adults based their negative stereotypes about Puerto Ricans being knife-wielding gang-members guessed it, West Side Story. (Enter the Ouroboros.)

That's why so many Nuyoricans and Boricuas alike have a problem with the lyrics and negative stereotypes not being changed in the new version. You can read more about that in this article, if you'd like to. -

Anyway, I've always been a pretty private person, so when I choose to share something so personal, it's with intention and for a reason.

In this case, to make the point that people who don't have any history with oppression, really don't have a say in how oppression should be corrected. I'm not suggesting that you are such a person, since I will never assume to know anyone's personal background. However, there are plenty of people who somehow feel like they are entitled to make such statements. Like a former young white female coworker of mine at Apple, who proclaimed that "racism no longer exists" over lunch with a group of mostly other white friendly female coworkers...and me. At which point, literally everyone else at the table turned toward me, with baited breath. But I couldn't muster the energy to even begin to explain why what she said was wrong on so many levels. Instead, I simply picked up my tray and decided to eat in my office that day.

Again, I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness around this issue, Brad. We may not be able to resolve this problem, but these types of conversations are a necessary part to of the process. Because people simply can't fix a problem they don't fully comprehend.

Brad Havens

Jean - thank you very much for sharing your personal influences that helped shape your perspective. I am glad that you show the wisdom and ability to detach from the emotion and review the problem from a larger perspective. I greatly appreciate you not making assumptions about me or my background as often happens when I attempt to engage in these sorts of conversations.

For my part I've spent quite a bit of time living hand-to-mouth, many times at what might be called a base line poverty level. Because of the way I moved around the United States at the time I was doing so, I found myself living in many low income areas where naturally in most cases I was the minority ethnicity, and most of the white people around were just as hard up as I was. It has been a long time since it's happened to me, but I have lost jobs to others because of my skin color, so not only do I know what that feels like, I also know what it's like to be told "suck it up you're white you'll find another job", while still having to worry about eating that week.

Getting back to your story, it's true, I never considered the implications of how certain scenes might impact people from Puerto Rico, especially in the context of lyrics in the songs. I was always told it was an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and left it at that. Then again I haven't seen that movie since I was a boy so I would probably do it with different eyes these days. That said, I never took it to imply that all Puerto Ricans were gang members because I know the difference between movies and reality. Especially when it comes to musical theater, it's hard for me to take any of it seriously. I do see though, how this misrepresentation could be problematic in a long-term view. I also didn't know those problems about Spielberg's adaptation and I find that particularly disappointing, as this is a real opportunity for him to address these issues you're talking about. It might have been better for him to hire a creative consultant from Puerto Rico to have some input.

So without further ado, what I am about to say is only my opinion, will probably seem problematic, will certainly miss details and specificity that others reading what follows may want to see, but again, it is only my opinion. I am grateful to be able to participate in a forum where I can say this without immediately having labels thrust upon me:

It is absurd to say that "racism doesn't exist", but to me it is also absurd to keep the argument focused exclusively within the United States as if slavery began in this country. It didn't begin here it won't end here and it won't end in our lifetime, specifically because of this system we're talking about here. Why do I say this? Because from my perspective, most racism is a consequence of, and a tool for, prolonged, massive economic disparity, utilizing methods established long before the founding of our country, to foment division in such a way as to prevent targets of this system from truly examining and understanding economic methods and solutions that would not only elevate people from a financial standpoint, but also alleviate many of the stressors that pit people against each other unnecessarily.

Have you lived on a farm? Or worked at a facility that rescued animals? I noticed that in such places - animal rescue specifically - where you have animals which naturally should be predator and prey being commonly fed and sheltered, there is no violence. There are very rarely any attacks that come from predator to prey because their environmental circumstances no longer require it. In other words, the material needs and desires were met. There was no need to hunt, there was no need to prey on another. It was remarkable that these animals were allowed to roam freely together, and in some cases even bonded with one another, and the lesson was unmistakable.

It makes me sick to think that with all of the wealth and prosperity of this country, our educational system has been specifically designed to reinforce the corporate worker mentality, keeping our citizens stupid and divided against each other, while protecting this structure of economic disparity. We have individuals who own massive companies making billions of dollars, and all they are doing is hoarding that wealth for their own megalomaniacal purposes. If all these billionaires simply gave up half their income towards feeding and educating the rest of the world, every living thing on this planet would be fine. People could pursue their creative ambitions unfettered, perhaps even focus on further elevating all life on this planet, rather than assuming it was just put here for us to use without care or concern.

It is this Usurpers mentality that is perpetuated by every governmental system which ultimately seeks to demean and exploit larger populations at the whim of a genuine minority. That is the real pandemic Humanity has been facing ever since the first Royal claimed to be ordained by God.

Putting an end to that mentality would be Bliss for me.

That's my Fool's Dream that I will never see.

So to be clear, I am not trying to say that we should not change anything, especially in this day and age where technology offers independent business as well as creative opportunities to an individual who really only needs a smartphone, a goal, and the ambition to start making things happen. That may sound idealistic, but that's how I was raised in these United States. What I am saying is that some of these "solutions" merely exacerbate the problem. Sure they may pacify one demographic long enough to pit another demographic against them, but can you really define that as progress?

Finally, I personally believe that with the output we have seen over the past couple of years from Hollywood, it has become clear that it is too insular, bloated and outdated, leaving wide areas of opportunities for those Creatives who wish to seize them. Tyler Perry is an excellent example of this. We have already seen many examples of this on the music scene as well.

There is a lyric in a song that goes:

"Fuck the G-ride - I want the machines that are making them."

I never forgot it the minute it hit my brain. That's the message I want to send to every individual: don't just buy the product, study it, then make & own your own product. I believe we will continue to see more of this type of development, and I encourage every creative person to seize as much control over their works, as well as their lives, as possible.

Maybe that's why it's difficult for me to make a movie deal sometimes, but I'm not one to be a sucker for a bad contract either.

That's what we have right now. This huge centuries-old terrible contract between governments and citizens that somehow implies that those with power are better than those without it. And in these United States, money is absolute political power. It is an incredibly profitable contract for those who retain this power, but that does not mean that an independently minded individual cannot create and affect their own power base and manifest their own ambitions. In so doing, these individuals set an example for others to follow.

If the individual cannot affect change by working within the system, then they must utilize the tools available to them to develop new systems and new opportunities either alongside or in spite of the system itself. At that point, though, it must be said that the obligation is on them to examine their own bigotries and decide what kind of example they want to set for those who will follow their lead.

I think that's about all I have to say about all of this.

If you made it this far thank you very much for reading and considering my perspective. Honestly, if I wasn't furloughed right now, I don't think I would have taken the time to engage in this conversation so deeply. But I do feel that these are important conversations to have.

I greatly appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective with me as well. These sorts of conversations absolutely do help me to examine issues in ways that I simply can't do on my own and hopefully this forum helps everyone overall.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

HB Duran

This is a really thought-provoking post, Ally Shina thank you so much for sharing! I often wonder this, as well. Some of my stories involve white people and sometimes they don't, and the same with genders. For example, one story has a second-generation immigrant woman because her family's past impacts her belief system. But if public opinion is correct, then I am only capable of writing stories for white women, which I refuse to accept. (How boring would that be?) That being said, I would want to consult with an immigrant to make sure I am representing her accurately but I don't think that has to be the case with everything, like your surfer buddy example! We can't help our DNA. So write what you love, girl!

Jean Buschmann

Well said, Brad! Some great practicals too. I also liked the farm analogy. My real world experience living in NYC during the formation of the original Hip Hop movement, as a precocious kid, confirms that when people are legitimately given a voice - and treated with the SAWUBONA Zulu spirit, which was very much a part of early Hip Hop, they thrive.

So that would be my plan if it were up to me. Back to the basics - treat everyone equally and with respect.

P.S. - The researcher in me (20+ years/50k pages) wants to say so much more, but it would change the trajectory of this conversation. Instead, I'll simply suggest that racial division and chaos have always worked to the advantage of the elite rulers of the world, who when you dig deep enough you'll discover have bloodline connections that we're not supposed to know about. And yes, they once claimed a "divine right to rule" as you suggest. But their so called "god" is an inversion of all things moral.

I also find it interesting that during the most racially divisive period in recent history (prior to 2020, that is) the following movies and stories were re-released: ROOTS, BIRTH OF A NATION, The O.J. Trial. Similarly odd is the fact that just as the Travyon Martin verdict came in, the MSM "broke" the news that Paula Deen had used the "N word". Which they neglected to mention had happened 14 years prior - but yet somehow we had to be told about it during what already promised to be one of the most racially incendiary weeks ever.

Here's an intriguing article on the subject of social engineering -

(There's an obnoxious graphic at the top, but if you can get past it, the article itself contains very revealing information.)

Naturally, there's flip-side of this purposeful chaos and inversion, and it's actually pretty positive. Anyone interested in learning more can PM me.

I'll leave it at that. :)

Peace Out

~ Jean

Brad Havens

That's a lovely painting in the link, Jean, thanks! I will read up on that subject a little further. Also, as I am a bit of a researcher myself, I do believe I am understanding where you're coming from, and will say that we need only look at the press these past couple of days for more examples of the same tactics, repugnant as they are to witness.

You are appreciated! Take care and stay safe.

Tiffany Johnson

I think you should only write something that you can genuinely write about with passion and awareness. I see that you are based in South Africa and there may be some influences on your query related to those cultural nuances as well. Here in the states people of all backgrounds write stories about all types of people and demographics. People are people and many human experiences are universal and able to be translated via storytelling.

Write from that perspective and you won't need to worry about "coming off" in some type of offensive way. Write what you know to be true and deliver the story in the way it deserves to be told. I think the only time people run into problems with writing "out of their element" is when they try to "other" people in stories--this is where you run into problems: The type of writing where it is almost as if the "unknown" subject in the story is some kind of caricature. However, this itself just screams of an amatuer, or someone culturally inept at a minimum. Try writing as if you yourself were the characters in your story and give them the same care that you would give to yourself. For sure a topic to consider.

Jean Buschmann

I came across this yesterday and since it's so germane to this topic, I thought I'd come back and post it. It's the latest controversy and it involves Shia LaBeouf being "brown-faced" in his role as "Creeper" for the upcoming film "The Tax Collector."

He's essentially playing a sophisticated LA ganglord, and criticisms are many. Starting with the obvious - he's a white dude, he was literally painted brown for the role (with make-up), and his dialog attempts to reflect "vato-speak" - which automatically smacks as inauthentic to the target audience.

I will say this much, I know plenty of low-riding vatos (who are NOT necessarily "cholos" btw) and none of them would be down with Shia playing brown. Right or wrong, they just won't be cool with it because street subculture is all about keeping it 100 and not "fronting" - and that's exactly what this represents.

I was surprised to see that the writer/director is the well-respected and established David Ayer - who has actually had much success in urban based dramas. But in the past he's cast Latin males in Latin roles. So there's that.

My own impression after watching the trailer was that, despite my respect for David Ayer and Shia's acting chops, he does not come off as "street." The main reason, for me at least, is because there actually is a whole vernacular called "Caló" (aka "vato -speak") and it is so enmeshed with Chicano street culture that it's not just the words it's the attitude and emphasis that matter. (My hubby's late brother "Sugar Ray" was his opposite in many ways, as the uncrowned king of the local chapter in San Jo'. Lol. Seriously. His funeral was standing room only and filled with wall to wall familia and neighborhood vatos alike...and everyone had a story to tell about his huge heart and penchant for causing trouble and winding up in "summer camp." So I do know of what I speak.)

That said, CA Latino culture and street subculture is completely different than NYC Hispanic culture and street subculture - and since I grew up entrenched in one and then spent the second half of my life enmeshed in the other, I admittedly may be extra sensitive about authenticity as it relates to these portrayals. But I can guarantee that I'm not the only one.

I really can't emphasize that enough, because I'm also a devout old school skater - which is mostly a Black urban subculture, and I can tell you from personal experience that despite our devotion to the sport and willingness to fly &/or drive hundreds of miles to get our roll own - if the music ain't right, the crowd won't skate.

So If Hollywood wants the large Hispanic/Latino/LatinX culture &/or the urban Black culture to show up in droves, they need to above all be authentic.

Just like writers should "read the room" when pitching, filmmakers should "know your audience" when casting.

WL Wright

Actors act, it's what they do. Really good actors can transform themselves so we don't even see them, we only see the character of the story. This whole, it better be this way or that way because of this group or that group denies art itself. Art and freedom go hand and hand. Anything else is a slope leading to full blown censorship of artists. Can't give an inch on this one, not a single inch. Art is the object and art should be the focus. I don't care what color the actor is I care whether he can act so I can be taken away within the story, period.

WL Wright

Btw Jean I don't think anyone should care about what gang-bangers want. As if.

Jean Buschmann

To be clear, I was specifically talking about a white actor playing a person of color. Not acting in general. Beyond the obvious question of not hiring an actor of color for such a role due to physicality and equitable access to work alone, is the issue of colloquialisms, regional dialect, and/or subculture-speak in the specific example I cited above. It would be tantamount to any actor not nailing the Boston accent while playing a Kennedy, or the south Boston ("southie") accent when cast in such a role. As viewers we would expect a level of devotion to craft to master the correct vernacular, if you will. (But again, in the case I cited above, it's much more than just an accent issue.)

As to the statement directed to me above, about gang-bangers effectively not mattering, I'd suggest that you scroll up a bit an read a story I told about one such person related to me, who like many others, went on to accomplish great things in life after being given the external support they very much needed to exit such a lifestyle. (In the West Side Story post.)

Jean Buschmann

But you're certainly entitled to your own opinions, WL. As we all are.

WL Wright

I grew up in LA and vatos and cholos are only gang bangers. (sic) but I don't care. I've had friends that were good loving people victimized by them, even when they are the same color and race, ethnic identity whatever you want to call it, to choke a horse As far as I'm concerned hell has a special place for them but it's not glory in hell it's the worst of hell.

Jean Buschmann

Enter the I exit stage left.

WL Wright

Hey I'm glad you said something back that makes no sense. People need truth now. Not someone's agenda to feel powerful and dominant irregardless of what the truth is. My experience speaks my truth and that truth hasn't been added to any hip magazine or movie because I lived it and that truth isn't hip enough for those that have their agenda of what kind of control they want to exact on us all. I stand by it all the way to the end. What is your experience? Movies? Get real already.

Ruben L. Martinez

Hey KEN, not cool. You might want to change that moniker to "WP" because your white privilege is glaring, brother. Is that what the white hooded icon of yours is all about? And since it obviously soared right over your head, I'll fill you in, Jean just slayed the dragon that your ignorant, racist comment represented. If you couldn't figure out that simple subtext you should probably consider a career change, dude.

Ruben L. Martinez

Correction - make that Hey KAREN.

WL Wright

Hey Ruben are you so jaded that you see an alien as a racist? Go take your meds, your psychosis of obsession to justify your failures is showing.

Ruben L. Martinez

After you, Karen. But wait, I don't need meds. Sorry if you do though - but there's absolutely no shame in mental illness. So please stop spreading more hate and ignorance, Karen. Sorry about the alien thing, my bad. It was impossible to see clearly until I looked at your profile and realized you were a Karen and not a Ken.

Doug Nelson

I remain dumbfounded by the question and the lengthy comments/discussion that followed. To me, I write for only the human race - that's it. Are men & women different species - I never thought so. How 'bout light/medium/dark skinned men & women - I think we're all just basic humans. I don't write for birds, fish or horses so I'm a little confused by the question. To me, it's a baited question cast forth to create confusion and instill hostel discussion - pointless. But that's just my personal pov.

WL Wright

Stop spreading hate and stop spreading love for those that are criminals. That's not play land that's reality man. Crips, Bloods, Big Hazard et al they pile up the bodies and what? You want to glorify them? Guess you're a member, for sure you are. Who else would support those criminals but another criminal. You're lucky I don't have emojis's Ruben. You sully the name of an extra special person in my life with the same name as you. Racist? That's you man.

WL Wright

Go ahead Marxist criminal you love control, do you have a basement with levers you pull pretending? I bet you do.

Ruben L. Martinez

I will no longer dignify your illogical and offensive comments, btw. So have fun talking to yourself. But I have taken a screenshot to save the proof of your hate speech. I'm pretty sure there is a policy about that here. I know there is at my network.

Claude Gagne

Yeah! I write for the human race too.

Carl Pepper

Ruben, stop with your tunnel vision remedial thoughtless dribble! We are all here to help one another as Americans! Not one sided bullshvt! Case in point, Hollywood has lost half of its audience due to one sided group thinking! One does not have to look to far to see that I am right in fact.

I am an Independent at heart that looks at the larger picture with knowledge of 40 years in the business! So when I see this cheap, one sided thought toward WL, who I know personally in person with a friendship for years cool your jets! Your insecurity is showing....

Think outside outside the box period!

Watch how this group think crap changes .......soon!

Carl Pepper

Write for the sake of ART! Entertainment is and has always been to remove the audience from their everyday lives! Write what you have passion for, think outside the current box!

Jean Buschmann

Thanks, Rube! Sorry you felt the need to take time away from your busy producing work to chime in. I do understand why, though. As for any and all other other Karen & Ken types who feel the need to hide their identities here - no worries, I'm sure they'll be plenty of acting roles available for you in the very near future. In fact, I have a few to cast myself. So hit me up with your head shots and bios. All are welcome to submit. Cheers!

Jean Buschmann

Oh one last thing, it's probably best if people late to the discussion actually read the prior comments before "replying". Since much of what is being "argued" about no one actually disagreed with - as far as WRITING diverse characters goes.

Carl Pepper

To be continued....

Karen E Ross

I don't know, Jean Buschmann - I kinda like that the thread has stayed alive as long as it has. Admittedly, it's probably exhausted for those, like you, who have contributed so much. But, as a consensus goes, I think it's worth it for new contributors to read and respond to the initial query.

Jean Buschmann

Hi Karen E Ross, I never suggested it should be shut down. I actually think conversation helps build awareness - when it's productive. However, since you're a moderator, I would imagine that some concerned lurker or participator may have felt the need to bring your attention to a few previous comments that are not at all productive and nothing short of hate speech. Comments which were directed to me in conversation (but not about me), and then to Ruben (and about him).

...So it sounds like maybe you have me confused with someone who PM'd you regarding this situation. Might that be the case?

At any rate, now that you are here, I will take the time to personally copy and paste said comments - with my bold letters for emphasis.

WL Wright wrote:

"I grew up in LA and vatos and cholos are only gang bangers. (sic) but I don't care. I've had friends that were good loving people victimized by them, even when they are the same color and race, ethnic identity whatever you want to call it, to choke a horse As far as I'm concerned hell has a special place for them but it's not glory in hell it's the worst of hell. "

"Stop spreading hate and stop spreading love for those that are criminals. That's not play land that's reality man. Crips, Bloods, Big Hazard et al they pile up the bodies and what? You want to glorify them? Guess you're a member, for sure you are. Who else would support those criminals but another criminal. You're lucky I don't have emojis's Ruben. You sully the name of an extra special person in my life with the same name as you. Racist? That's you man. "

"Go ahead Marxist criminal you love control, do you have a basement with levers you pull pretending? I bet you do."

During and after which Carl Pepper chimed in to defend his friend, or girlfriend, by addressing this perplexing and baseless comment to Ruben -

"Ruben, stop with your tunnel vision remedial thoughtless dribble! We are all here to help one another as Americans!"

They both then changed their tune after Ruben called out WL Wright for her hate speech. Shifting gears with comments that had absolutely no bearing on what Ruben, myself or anyone had actually previously said.

The suggestion that every Mexican/Chicano/Vato is a criminal is extremely offensive. As is the implication that any person is worthless.

I'd suggest you scroll up, and if the comments get removed before you have a chance to read them, I will send you a PDF, which I am about to print once I hit hit the "enter" key.

Ruben L. Martinez

Karen E Ross I hope someone did report it. Since it clearly is hate speech. For WL to make such offensive and blatantly racist broad-stroke statements shouldn't be acceptable on this forum or any forum. Imagine if I had applied that same mentality and said "All white people are..." or "All people who live in Vegas are...." - fill in the ignorant and hateful blank, since I refuse to stoop to that level or take a cheap shot even while giving an example of her comment's equivalent.

I can't imagine that you guys would support such remarks.

Tasha Lewis

Excellent question for today's time. I can address it personally and professionally as a professor. Personally, I write in my voice (a global citizen). Professionally, based on my course work with, I write to get the deal and get paid.

Jean Buschmann

Karen E Ross Ruben's right. And I can't see myself sticking around anywhere that allows racist rantings. Especially in today's climate. It's incomprehensible.

Carl Pepper

Reuben , grow up and get thicker skin! "That was not hate speech", as you cowardly rely on, that was truth period! Think away from group thinking! Thats total failure to the art of writing but, failure as an American.....I previewed this site before coming on with the intent to help up-coming writers in any way that I could be of assistance. If you have not figured out that Carl Pepper is my pen name here, well IMDB does not have Carl Pepper as a Supervising Art Director....

Brad Havens

Hello Jean - yeah I saw that Shia LaBeouf movie trailer - I should say that I saw the thumbnail inviting me to click the link to watch the trailer - and I was just dumbfounded that after all of the critical acclaim with his recent movies that he would turn around and do something so blatantly inappropriate for the times. Frankly I don't have much respect for him as an individual, and that maneuver only reinforced my negative opinion.

This is where my opinion of on camera versus voice-over talent deviates in terms of casting. I have sat in on voice over auditions where the producers were present and basically waffling on what a particular animated character should sound like, prompting the voice-over actor to present as many as 5 or 8 distinctly different options for them to consider in the moment. In those instances, they are deciding what the entire character models should be for the final presentation. I have seen 1 actor voice an entire family, parents and children, and was still reading for the narrator - the more voices he could do the more likely he was to book the entire project and make the most money. You could literally see the producers calculating cost the moment they recognized they could hire one person for 8 roles or more. After that session they started working every voice over after to see how many roles they could fill with the fewest actors to hire.

I get that.

With an on-camera performance, the actor is restricted by their physical body in ways that voice-over actors rarely are: adult women voicing pre-teen boys for example would simply look absurd on camera. Personally I believe there is an obligation to authenticity which demands appropriate casting for a clearly defined role. This isn't like Shakespeare where you can play with casting because all the material is 600 years old anyway, it is completely profit-driven which makes it that much more disgusting to see so blatantly thriving within today's studio system.

Of all the amazingly talented actors who would be capable of filling that role - hell, they even could have cast someone as a "breakout star" - they decided to cast Shia LaBeouf and put him in make-up. It's even more ridiculous than casting Scarlett Johansson for Ghost in the Shell. Both these actors are at a level of celebrity where they can pick and choose their roles, and while there is no way that I could truly know what motivated their decisions, it's just an appallingly bad look these days - selfish in a way as there are plenty of international stars who could pull in an international audience and the outrage over casting in these instances I believe his fully deserved.

Thanks for sharing Jean - I appreciate you introducing this into the conversation despite the misunderstanding and vitriol you were subjected to unnecessarily. Please don't allow the ignorance of others to prevent you from speaking up. You have a beautiful voice & deserve to be heard.

Dan Guardino

The question was "Should you be writing for your own race?" My answer is a simple no. What other people want to write about is their business and I don't care what they write about.

Pierre Langenegger

I have to agree with you Dan Guardino, that's the same way I feel. If other writers want to restrict themselves in their writing then that is entirely up to them but I will write what I want to write.

Dash Riprock

I dug around to see what all the fuss was about regarding Shia. Here is what I found:

(from David Ayer, writer) "Really important answer - Shia is playing a whiteboy who grew up in the hood. This is a Jewish dude playing a white character. Also, the only white dude in the movie."

So, what I'm getting out of this thread is's racist for a white guy to play a white guy?

I'm so confused...

Tennyson Stead

Jean Buschmann Ally Shina Ruben L. Martinez As far as I know, there's no method for reporting hate speech on Stage 32. When I see it in the comments of my articles, which I definitely have, I report it by email to the head of content. I don't want to shout that person out here, just because I'm sure it would invite hate speech in their email... but if anyone needs that email address, you can certainly message me.

Brad Havens

Dash - the trailer for the movie doesn't provide that information. That's where the confusion lies at the moment. It seems the director only provided that detail after the backlash. Thank you for doing a little research and helping to clear that up.

A fine example of how a little more conscientious publicity can avoid a lot of negativity.

Dash Riprock

Or, a better example of how people should research before they hit the keyboard.

Brad Havens

Trailer for the movie is supposed to tell you what the movie is about. That trailer is all about a Latin gang war in Los Angeles and Shia LaBeouf's the star. Without that specific detail you provided how is anybody else supposed to know and make a decision which again I remind you is what the trailer is supposed to do for the audience. Nope, the backlash is real and especially in these times when most everybody is hypersensitive about ethnicity in the United States, they could have been smarter about what they did with their trailer.

Brad Havens

This was the very first picture I saw from the movie. No information other than it's Shia LaBeouf's new movie. Now I ask you does that look like a white Jewish accountant? Don't really feel the need to do much research with an image like that do you? If the trailer doesn't give you information, publicity photos don't provide information, than what is the audience supposed to think based on the images provided?

Dash Riprock

Brad, no disrespect, but I'm old school. If I see a photo or read a snippet of information, I realize that there's more to the story than what I just read or saw. So I do the research before I'm compelled to pass judgement. I believe everyone's owed that.

By the way, the research I did took me less than 30 seconds.

Doug Nelson

An around, an around we a screenwriting forum.

Dan MaxXx

I see a picture of Shia shirtless with tats and I'm in! And then to find out it's by David Ayer, I'm paying $ to watch.

btw, Ayer movies generally have characters of color as the moral compass; they are the Heroes.

Jean Buschmann

Tennyson Stead Thanks for the 411, and will do when I get finished with some commercial VOs today. I actually remember you reporting something similarly vile awhile back - so I know that like Ruben L. Martinez and Brad Havens you are a stand-up guy. Much appreciated. (I hope you got my email Brad.)

Jean Buschmann

Dash Riprock You could have saved roughly 28 of those 30 seconds had you simply scrolled down on the very link I attached to my comment. You might also want to spend a few more seconds reading what prompted David Ayer to have to take to social media to defend what was clearly confusing (and possibly deliberately misleading) to many vocal critics. - But then again, Brad Havens already eloquently explained it, so there's that.

Doug Nelson I just want to encourage you to use your freewill birthright to simply avoid interacting with threads that you dislike. Life is short, spend it on what resonates and ignore the rest. Lotsa' people do. Works great! I do it all the time myself. :)

Brad Havens

Dash - a lot of presumptions going on here, like assuming I give a shit about Shia LaBeouf enough to research anything he's doing beyond the superficial publicity. I said before I have very little respect for the man as an individual, this just seems like more deliberately provocative bullshit just to stay in the Press, because that's his regular routine. That is my first and last take on Shia LaBeouf. I know that I am far from alone on sharing this opinion with others, but I can also respect that he has earned his fan base. I pass through notifications of his work in the same manner that I do notifications about the Kardashians.

Frankly I only watched the trailer to confirm that they ignored one of the core elements to the story which is this specific aspect to his character. I did this only to confirm my impression of the early marketing campaign which is what I have been talking about.

Regardless of your perspective on research - thank you for volunteering the time it took for you to look that up and write it out for everyone here in this forum, btw, something that should have been unnecessary with a more conscientious marketing campaign - certainly you can appreciate that the majority of the people who are being thrown snippets of information every minute are naturally very selective about how they invest their time, so at the risk of sounding redundant, whether intentional or otherwise, the publicity was poorly executed at the outset and the backlash should not be surprising to anyone.

And with that I think that's about all I have to say about the subjects I've seen brought up in this forum. Thanks for sharing your insights everyone, I've been given much food for thought.

Stay safe and healthy!

Jean Buschmann

I'm just gonna' state this for the record, since I choose to believe that some people didn't get the full context of why and how certain comments made above were so offensive.

In summary:

1) A person came on this thread and literally said, NOT implied, NOT insinuated, but SAID that "ALL vatos (which are Chicanos, aka Mexican-Americans) are cholos (gang members in that person's own stated context)."

How exactly is it okay to label and broad-stroke any one group or race of people?

Unless you do happen to believe that ALL Mexican-Americans are gang members. And IF you do, then I have some news for you - you are an ignorant racist.

It's no different from saying "ALL whites are white trash" or "ALL blacks are criminals" - NONE of which are true, and ALL of which are vile, disgusting, and blatantly racist.

This same person went on to say that THEY deserved to suffer in the worst pits of hell.

2) Even if this person had not equated ALL Mexican-Americans with criminals - which they did, by insisting that all vatos were cholos, who they regarded as worthless human beings - they would still be wrong.

So I politely encouraged this person to scroll up and read a personal anecdote I'd shared about an uncle who was once an NYC West Side ganglord and went on to get his PhD and become a great contributor to society. I also had just shared another story about my brother-in-law - saying he was essentially the vato King of San Jose. Alluding to his huge heart and propensity to get into trouble - and to be clear the "trouble" he got into is now legal, so I was NOT talking about violent behavior. Which should have already been abundantly clear from how I described him and hist standing-room only funeral. (He was also NOT a gang member - that is NOT what "vato" means.)

...So for that person to get on this forum and say those things especially right after what I had just shared made what they said not only offensive and racist but personal.

Whether they meant it to be personal or not, it was, just because of what I had already shared - and even encouraged them to go back and read. So there's no way around it, they knew where I was coming from.

They then attacked Ruben's character - which you'll notice he did not even bother defending. (Nor would he ever.) He doesn't need to. He did, however, call the person out for their racist Ken/Karen behavior. You can't say what that person said and NOT be racist. That's just a fact.

That should clear things up. If it doesn't, there's a whole other problem here.

And it's not mine.

Ruben L. Martinez

Jean Buschmann Perfectly stated, J. Although it wasn't necessary, since it was already clear. But I know you like to think the best of people and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. To a fault at times. So I hope you see this as a moment of clarity too.

BTW You have nothing to prove here or anywhere. Your talent, heart and work speaks for itself. Of the many paths in front of you, my only hope is that you choose the one lined with the most supportive, collaborative, and ego-less people, and let go of all the rest.

Ruben L. Martinez

I do have to say I find it beyond strange how this whole thing started. How a comment was made suggesting Jean had asked to close this thread down, when no such thing was said or implied by Jean. So Jean Buschmann I'm glad you saved the PDF and embedded some of the hateful comments above - in case the posters delete or revise them later. Something isn't right about all this. Including the veiled threat and gaslighting. Shady. And not cool.

Jean Buschmann

Ruben L. Martinez No worries. Even if the past repeats itself, my "tech support" team can now back trace any hostile activities and unmask any fake user profiles. And it's great to have a family member who works for a major media outlet. Moving on.

Ally Shina

Hey all I'd have loved to continue this discussion and respond to all your comments but it's starting to weigh heavily on me. I'm questioning a lot of things I though I knew before which is making it very difficult to participate in this thread as the answers are still new to me. However this has not discouraged me from participating in future threads or starting new ones myself.

Thank you all for taking the time to engage with me on this topic. I'm truly grateful for Stage32 providing this platform for us creatives to express ourselves and interact with each other.

I hope you're keeping happy and healthy during these strange coronavirus times.

Til next time.

Bill Costantini

Hi Ally,

I hear you. Like I had posted earlier, forum topics of this nature can have a way of turning sideways. Heck...almost any forum topic can turn ugly. But this one turned a bit extra ugly, since there were comments that led to accusations (true or not) of some extreme types of prejudice.

I could feel that weight, too!

But this forum topic took a few unexpected turns. Using a specific word in a story title, and the aftermath caused by that, turned things a bit. So did interpreting and processing of two other specific words, and the aftermath caused by that. And so did an actor's role in a film, and the aftermath caused by that.

All of that seems pretty unrelated to your original question, of course, and that, unfortunately, is the way it can go at times.

Getting back to your original dilemma - which I interpret as a dilemma and my apologies if I misread it. I know that dilemma, too, as I stated in my first post. I think a lot of writers struggle with that, too.

I know that I have some very serious stories that are semi-autobiographical stories or responses to the environment/world and that are near and dear to my heart. And I also know that there are producers and execs in my circle who want low-budget horror stories; sexy double-cross crime capers; and teen comedies.

It's a struggle, to be sure, since I am not a member in the group of Very Fast Writers, and don't get to spend much time writing creatively. I guess you, Ally, have to decide what you want to write, and have the time to write - like some of us others have to, and hope for the best.

The surfer story sounds cool, though - and I'm sure any personal experiences that you have as a Black woman living and coping in a country like you live in and that could be relatable to others in other countries could also have the potential to be great stories, Or the stories of others that you are aware of, too. Maybe they're not as "cool" as a story that might be more entertainment and escapism - like a surfer story might be, or a low-budget horror story, or a sexy double-cross crime caper, or a teen comedy might all be - but they could still be great stories nonetheless.

Anyway.....sorry about the way your forum topic went, and I hope you'll get to write all the stories that you want to write - and sell them!

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Ally, and stay safe!

Bill Costantini

Hi Jean,

I read your comment with the emphasis on the word "ALL", and I agree with your conclusion - if that's what the person truly meant, and wasn't just being sloppy with his/her words.

I'm not defending anyone, but sometimes posters here (and elsewhere) can get a bit careless in how they quantify and qualify statements that they make. I've questioned some posters here - and even gone off a bit on them at times - when they've made blanket statements like "Writing schools are a waste of money", "Hollywood sucks", "Paying to pitch is a waste of money," etc. etc. I know those statements aren't exactly as troubling in the grand scheme of things as making overt racial or sexist statements, but I'm just trying to state how things can be at times on a website where people (with real names or with fake names) can post comments to a forum.

I have trouble understanding how people can make any type of general blanket statements that are blatantly biased. Maybe it's a sour-grapes mentality at times. Maybe they are not the brightest critical thinkers at times. Maybe they are sloppy writers at times. Maybe they truly feel that way. Or maybe it's a combination.

I guess we won't know in this specific situation unless that poster offers an acceptable explanation or apology.

Anyway....I'm sorry to see you or anyone else here get offended by a statement that was clearly so hurtful as worded, and I hope the person who made it doesn't really feel that way about all Latin men in L.A., and will come back and clear things up.

Best continued fortunes in your creative endeavors, Jean, and stay safe!

Thom Reese

Sad to see this post go so far astray. First time I've seen something like that on Stage 32.

Dan Guardino

It is sad.

Jean Buschmann

It's perplexing to me that people fear expansive conversations. Equally, if not more confusing, is the selective memory on display. Since all one need do is scroll up to the very beginning of this thread and see how presumptions and accusations were contentiously being bandied about from every angle. I actually jumped into the fray to help mitigate some of the miscommunication at play. Mainly because of the times we're living in, but also because this topic is close to home for several reasons that should be obvious to anyone who actually took the time to read all of the above posts.

What I didn't say previously though, is that I wrote a screenplay about racism and classism well over a year ago, and possibly because my last name belies my ethnicity, I have actually been called into question (by some) about my "qualifications' to write on such topics. Which is beyond ironic, since I'm multiracial and multicultural and I largely identify with my Hispanic heritage (by both birth and marriage). And because the very inspiration for the script was an ugly and blatantly racist experience that my husband and I were subjected to as we strolled along the neighborhood we've lived in for over two decades now. Please note - we actually never said a single word during the incident because it was was so shocking it rendered me speechless (clearly not an easy task). So that says it all, really. Since the perpetrators of the verbal onslaught of ugliness were solely basing their completely ridiculous and baseless assumptions on my olive and his brown complexion. (They actually accused us of a crime, btw. Then threatened us with gun violence.)

When that same type of ugliness arrived on this thread, having experienced it so many times growing up in NYC, and even very recently - I had every right and reason to call it out. Everyone should have.

We each are responsible for our words and actions. No one gets a pass. The same way I came back to express what I did, the guilty party could have very easily done that by now. But note, they have not. So making excuses for them winds up being equally offensive.

As an American myself, I do know that this culture tends to be fearful of anything that even remotely smacks of confrontation, controversy, or passionate discussion. But we need to get over that. Because that is a huge part of our problem - people do not REAL-ly (as in authentically) communicate. And the only way past something is through it - by acknowledging and discussing things, even when they're uncomfortable. That said though, RESPECT and CIVILITY are MUSTS. So beyond the racism that was on full display, the personal attacks alone should have been called out.

Here's what I know to be true -

We are all who we choose to be at any given moment. None of us are perfect and we each make mistakes. Only stand-up people who live by a code of honor or ethics will take personal responsibility for those mistakes, swallow their pride, and make them right by way of a simple sincere apology. That is an option for everyone. So those who do not choose it are telling you exactly who they are because they are literally not sorry for their words or actions and don't consider them a mistake. What such people often do do though, is DEFLECT by quickly changing their tune or the subject - to make the subjects of their hateful words look like they are the ones with the problem. Such people also tend to lash out in very destructive ways, when called out - but on the down and low, in keeping with their shady character. I've seen it so many times it's predictable.

"When people tell you who they are (by their words, actions &/or inaction) believe them. (And stop enabling them by making excuses - they are not victims they are perpetrators.)" ~ Dr. Maya Angelou (parentheticals my own)

Passionate expansive conversations are not the problem. Not even close.

P.S. - If anyone wants to actually advance their understanding of some of the peripheral but equally important topics that came up on this thread, I'd highly recommend watching UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN - a new and critically-acclaimed YouTube series. The second episode with Matthew McConaughey, as a guest, was especially powerful.

Ruben L. Martinez

Spot on, J. But most people prefer to escape reality not face it head on. You're absolutely right though, things won't change until people do. Great show recommendation and revelatory quote. Way to keep it 100.

Catarina S. César

No, screenwriter should not be writing "only" for their own race. If we start questioning this now, then one day I wouldn't be writing "white scripts" but Celtic-Iberian screenplays. Which is stupid. Everybody can learn and do research on some topic and then write about it, rather if it's a script, a book, etc.

It is also very beautiful to see a white writer writing something good about the black race, and vice versa. Same with women writing about men and vice versa. What is not morally acceptable is a black writer writing against other races. e.g., in a very dark +12y.o animation feature including white antagonists who are all the bad guys, with no single white-good character in it. Especially in animation for kids... Good and Evil should be on both races equally, no matter who's writing.

Actors, on the other hand, should not play a character with a different race, unless is a parody, bc of this 2 reasons: The first is because it takes away jobs from good performers who are neglected by their race; Second is not realistic, and it goes against what cinema is all about.

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