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  • Davina Roberts

Black British Actors In American Roles: Is It Wrong?


There's been a debate circulating online, and I want your opinion, should Black British actors portray Black American characters?


Personally, I don’t see the issue, but some are upset that Black British actors have been cast over Black American actors for roles because they claim that the stories are not their history. For example, when the 2019 movie, Harriet, came out, some were upset that British artist, Cynthia Erivo was cast over an American actor, but my question is, just because she is not American, does that mean she does not identify with the Black struggle?


I am aware that racism and discrimination in America Vs. the U.K can take different forms, and while some may be more overt than others, it does not mean that one simply does not exist. Being an American artist, or a British one does not erase your blackness, and your ability to understand the nuances that come with being Black.


While this debate has always been a hot topic, it has recently resurfaced when Naomi Ackie was announced to play Whitney Houston in the forthcoming biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Some were irate that a woman of color from the U.K was chosen over a Black American women, because Whitney's American roots and her upbringing in a Black American church, were instrumental to her story. Others felt that it was unfair to discredit Naomi’s ability based on the sole fact that she is a Black woman from the U.K. rather than the U.S.


Idris Elba even threw in his opinion, stating, “You know what I noticed?” Elba said. “You said Black women in America versus an English woman. Like being English makes you less Black? To me, that defines how unintelligent the whole argument is.No disrespect to anyone who has that feeling, it is what it is,” he continued. “But the fact is: we’re all Black… But amongst ourselves we want to point fingers because we come from a conditioning that makes people just make sure ‘Where’re you from?’ and ‘Are you authentic from where you’re from? How Black are you?’”


It’s important that we realize the insinuations we are unconsciously saying by these statements. Black people on a whole, regardless of where they are from, face a unique struggle that only we can identify and relate to. While I would understand if we were comparing racism faced in America to a predominantly Black country, that is not the case. The U.K. has racism as well, and Black people there do identify with the issues we see here. Also - if the performer can do the story justice, why not let them?


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