300 Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre makers, across various disciplines, have signed a letter—accompanied by a petition—demanding that the white American theatre recognize its legacy of white fragility and white supremacy. Penned in the wake of the nation's civic unrest and against the backdrop of a global Black Lives Matter movement, the letter, titled "We See You, White American Theater," is available to view online here.
The letter exposes the indignities and racism that BIPOC, and in particular Black theatremakers, face on a day-to-day basis. The testimonial touches on several different points; including tokenism, in this instance when a theatre relegates just one slot per season to a BIPOC play; the co-opting of BIPOC work, scholars, talent, and funding; fiscal mismanagement on the back of BIPOC artists; failures to make changes in leadership and programming despite claiming anti-racist practices; the continued promotion of anti-Blackness; unchecked white privilege over the safety of BIPOC artists; and the upholding of a racist and overwhelmingly white critical landscape.
"We have watched you amplify our voices when we are heralded by the press, but refuse to defend our aesthetic when we are not, allowing our livelihoods to be destroyed by a monolithic and racist critical culture," reads the letter. "We see you."
"This ends TODAY," it concludes, demanding for a more equitable and safe space for all BIPOC communities inside of the American Theatre. You can sign the petition, which has already amassed tens of thousands of signatures since June 9, at Change.org.
The cohort behind We See You WAT is currently collecting data, testimonials and statistics, which will be incorporated into a comprehensive list of demands calling upon white institutions to examine, change, and dismantle their racist practices.
"We See You, White American Theater," has been signed by Cynthia Erivo, Viola Davis, Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lauren Yee, Leslie Odom Jr., Lindsay Mendez, Leah C Gardiner, Katori Hall, Eden Espinosa, Ruthie Ann Miles, Issa Rae, Jacob Padrón, and Liesl Tommy, among many more.