With 11 Tony awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and a sold-out theater until 2017, it is undeniable that Hamilton has taken the nation by storm. If you haven’t heard much about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, you’re probably wondering “what’s so great about Hamilton?”
Well, let me tell you…
Hamilton follows the life of an Orphan Immigrant – Alexander Hamilton – as he moves to New York City, joins the Revolution, and becomes the first Treasurer of the United States of America.
Still sounds like a bland history lesson?
What if I told you that the entire story is expressed through modern hip-hop and rap, that “cabinet meetings” are transformed into “rap battles,” and that Miranda merges 18th century history with 21st century issues like racial discrimination and immigration?
From the very beginning, Miranda knew that if he wanted to make Hamilton a hit, he would need to make it relatable to ALL Americans. So, he decided that he didn’t want to cast the founding fathers traditionally (as the white men with gray wigs that we see every time we open our wallets); instead he chose to cast them as people of color, in order to better represent “America Now.”
In 2016, the minority-majority is a very real concept in America. In fact, according to NPR, minorities will make up the majority of U.S children by 2020. However, almost all of these minority groups remain under-represented in the media. Needless to say, it was a refreshing change of speed to see Hamilton’s racially diverse cast in a time when whitewashing is such a prominent issue in Hollywood and on Broadway.
People all across America have praised Hamilton for its colorblind casting, and for its emphasis on the idea that history belongs to everyone – regardless of skin color or origin. In fact, very little serious criticism of Hamilton exists. As a whole, Americans agree that all people deserve representation in society, and no one should be excluded from the history books…at least in theory. In reality, however, our actions do not support this idea.
Perhaps the best example of this hypocrisy is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. How can we so adamantly support a musical that highlights racial diversity, while simultaneously supporting a presidential candidate who has proven himself to be a racist, xenophobic bigot? Donald Trump has conflated the word ‘terrorist’ with the entire Islamic religion, and has made claims suggesting that Muslims should not be permitted to live in the United States. Donald Trump has called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and promotes building a wall to keep immigrants out, rather than embrace the positive contributions that they have on our economy.
And yet, many Americans still passionately support him.
How can we watch a musical like Hamilton, so obviously focused on the positive impacts immigrants have on society, and continue supporting a candidate like Donald Trump who stands for the exact opposite ideals? How can we support a musical that spotlights people of color, while continuing to remain silent about police brutality against black people?
The answer: we can’t.
If we want positive change in America, we must stop talking about the problems in our society, and start taking action against injustice. We must stop talking about building walls, and begin building bridges. Only then will our ideas become our reality; only then will we see racial and ethnic equality in America.