When many people think about what white supremacy looks like, they often picture a white person outfitted in swastikas, shouting racist, xenophobic, or anti-Semitic slurs. Such an image isn’t at all incorrect, but it’s actually a rather limited and narrow depiction of what constitutes white supremacy. Today’s riot by Trump supporters on the Capitol, on the other hand, manifestly provides a window into understanding what white supremacy truly is and how it works, not simply because the mob itself was white, but more importantly because of how the actions of these individuals were handled by law enforcement.

I, like many…

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton

The screen adaptation of Hamilton, the 2015 multi-award-winning musical is making its debut on Disney+ this weekend and by all means you should watch it. It’s a terrific piece of theater that features some of the most inventive music and lyrics of the last decade as penned by creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and performed by actors of color at a time when American theater remains a decidedly white, if not outwardly racist institution.

Yet in watching Hamilton, it’s important to temper our estimation of Miranda’s work of art. Great theater? Yes. Revolutionary? Maybe less so. Hamilton’s most radical feature is its…

Broadway musicals can offer a revealing look into the ways that systemic racism permeates all aspects of our society

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With Black men and women being killed on a regular basis by police in this country, and massive nationwide protests calling for racial justice, this might be a strange time to talk about Broadway musicals. Seemingly frothy and purely escapist, musicals would appear to be the exact opposite of what is happening in our streets right now. But if we look more carefully, musicals offer a window into the deep societal problem of systemic racism, revealing how something even as mundane as musicals are both affected by and help shape the oppressive system of white supremacy.

Take the show, 42nd…

Toward the beginning of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s multi-award-winning musical Hamilton, the Schuyler sisters are looking to go out and have a good time in New York, which they declare is “the greatest city in the world.” It’s not an original declaration to be sure, but in the musical, it’s a line that always seems to drive the audience wild, tourists and locals alike. New York, the playground where the Schuyler women want to be, is the biggest, the brightest, the best. If you’re not in New York, you’re nowhere worth being.

In recent weeks, though, as New York has become the…

Back in elementary and junior high school, I sat through a lot of school assemblies. I learned from Nancy Reagan not to do drugs. Smokey the Bear told me that only I can prevent forest fires. I was told not to smoke, and while I wasn’t taught abstinence, there was a healthy dose of sex ed mixed in as well. One of the assemblies, though, had to do with bullying and what it meant to being a bystander to inappropriate language. We were told that if someone makes a “joke” or says something that is demeaning about another group of…

If you’re like me, you’ve spent part of your day pouring over the gorgeous photos of the 2019 Met Gala attendees decked out and draped in some of the most jaw-dropping and spectacular outfits of the year. From Katy Perry’s sparkling chandelier getup to Billy Porter’s wonderfully excessive Egyptian ensemble, complete with a litter lifted by six shirtless buff men, to Cardi B’s luxurious (and heavy-looking) red dress and train, the fashion to us mere mortals, who just get to gawk at and not attend the annual fundraiser/costume party/event of the year, is indeed marvelous to behold.

And yet, despite…

Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in the 1962 film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.

“All rise!” shouts Scout Finch, the principal narrator of Aaron Sorkin’s new stage adaptation of the socially-minded To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a command that demands something of us to be sure, but for what purpose and for whom are we supposed to “rise”? Are we to stand for justice and if so, what does justice look like?

Sorkin’s adaptation of the 1960 Harper Lee novel is currently doing boffo business on Broadway with a $22 million advance sale and with overwhelmingly positive critical reviews to support it. The book, of course, is a beloved American classic, often taught in…

Warren Hoffman

Warren Hoffman is the author of The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical and The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture.

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