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Since the release of In The Heights last Friday, there is has been an uproar over the lack of representation of the Afro-Latinx diaspora of Washington Heights. Lin Manuel Miranda released a statement on Twitter apologizing for the oversight. Several of the actors from the movie along with director Jon M. Chu made a sh*t show of an interview in which questions were asked about the lack of dark-skinned Latinx in major roles. Now, EGOT Rita Moreno has had to apologize for insensitive comments she madeon The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. When Stephen asked Rita about the controversy, Rita, being eager to defend LMM, said you can’t satisfy everyone and folks should just leave it alone. She’s since apologized, saying that she was being “dismissive of black lives that matter in our Latin community.” Below are a few more highlights via Yahoo!:
Praising Miranda for bringing “Latinoness and Puerto Rican-ness to America,” Moreno stated that, “You can never do right, it seems…I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone? There’s a lot of people who are Puertorriqueños, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. And this is how it is, and it would be so nice if they hadn’t come up with that and just left it alone, just for now.”
Moreno has now said that she finds these comments—which were criticized online, and which stood in contrast to Miranda himself, who has apologized for the film’s handling of race and skin color—“clearly dismissive of black lives that matter in our Latin community.” While noting that she intended her statements on Colbert as a defense of Miranda (who, among other things, recently co-produced a new documentary about her), Moreno stated that, “It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others.”
The lesson to be learned here is not to have a knee jerk reaction to constructive criticism. People rightly were upset because they felt erased from their own story. Perhaps Rita and Lin didn’t see how they erased an entire group of people because they themselves were represented. I also found it quite hypocritical for Rita to take her initial stance, but I am glad she has since apologized. Rita has always been one of my favorite stars from the golden era of Hollywood so it really did hurt my feelings to hear her comments. Stephen Colbert even tried to help Rita out, but she doubled down. Many people wanted to excuse Rita’s comments by saying she is of an older generation, but I am under no such obligation. I believe you are never too old to learn something new and educate yourself. Hopefully, the apology was sincere and not damage control for Rita’s new biopic that Lin is in or of the new West Side Story movie. I really try my best to be optimistic about people’s motives.
I hope going forward that people in these positions of power, who can really take a stance in the spaces they occupy, learn not to take criticism personally. Critics were not attacking Lin’s art or even the script and cinematography of In The Heights. They were rightly upset. The lack of dark skinned Afro- Latinx in Lin’s show had been pointed out when In The Heights ran on Broadway. People were upset that Lin and Jon didn’t learn from the criticism and actively erased the people who make up the majority of the neighborhood depicted. I hope Rita too has learned from the controversy. She should ask herself why she was so dismissive of people’s concerns because that defensiveness is very telling. Telling people who have the right to be upset about their erasure to basically shut up and wait your turn just isn’t it. With that being said, I am happy about is that Rita didn’t take the stance of Sharon Osbourne when confronted with her bias, instead she reflected and apologized. That, to me, is growth.
I love Rita Moreno but this is the opposite of it. We have had a century of movie roles being reserved for the lightest skinned Latino, Black & Asian ppl. This is not breaking new ground & there is nothing for dark skinned ppl to be waiting for https://t.co/fAw9w1qn9g
— DEFUND & ABOLISH POLICE, REFUND OUR COMMUNITIES (@BreeNewsome) June 16, 2021
*light skinned people cast in 3736636278383663727 latino tv/film projects*
*backlash erupts after light skinned people cast in film about predominately afro-latinx neighborhood*
rita moreno: “you can never do right, it seems”
— jules (@thecityofjules) June 16, 2021
Rita Moreno opened her mouth and my abuelita spoke through her. Disappointed, but not actually surprised. Because having HER, of all people, dismiss the colorism problem in the latine community basically shows how deep it runs.
— Lissete Lanuza Sáenz (@lizziethat) June 16, 2021
#FunFact: Rita Moreno's skin was darkened for her role as Anita in the 1961 adaptation of "West Side Story," which launched her career with an Oscar win. Although she didn't have a say in the matter. But clearly, for Black Latinx in Hollywood, "wait a while" is so 1960s. https://t.co/tSn4YCJCQR
— TAMBAY OBENSON (@TambayObenson) June 16, 2021
In addition to applauding Lin for his wonderful movie version of In The Heights, let me add my appreciation for his sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward. See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks – RITA
— Rita Moreno (@TheRitaMoreno) June 17, 2021