Weighing In: Colorism and the ‘In The Heights’ Casting Controversy
July 27, 2021
Written by Ozzie Godinez, CEO/Co-Founder
Latinos are more than 18% of the population yet make up only 4.6% of movie roles, according to a report by UCLA. It is so important to amplify Latino voices – they represent a major part of today’s America, but their stories are frequently forgotten, misrepresented, or excluded.
At the same time, we have to be thoughtful about how we represent Latinos in the US because Latinidad is not a monolith. The casting of In the Heights, which included mostly light-skinned Latinos, did not reflect the reality of Washington Heights, a predominantly Afro-Latino Dominican neighborhood in NYC. This is a clear example of colorism, the systematic preferential treatment of people with lighter skin, combined with the prejudicial treatment of people with dark skin within the same racial/ethnic group. Colorism is very real and harmful, and consistently shows up in how the media and advertising agencies portray Latinos, African Americans, and Asians.
As part of PACO’s inclusive marketing approach, we believe that advertising is a powerful tool to empower people and break stereotypes. We think In the Heights provides important lessons for marketers:
Be authentic to your target. Understand who they are, what they look like, and be true to their reality.
Think about colorism (and its close cousins texturism and featurism) when casting Black, Latino, and Asian talent.
For Latinos, rather than erasing our African and Indigenous roots, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate and center them.
We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the intersections of what it means to be Afro-Latino in the US, especially when media so infrequently represents them. Take a look at our blog post, I Want to Be Both: Afro-Latinos and Identity in America, to get to know this important audience a little bit better.