Tonight, we went to see the show Admissions at the Lincoln Center, which is about a liberal white couple, one of whom is the head of admissions at a New England prep school, the other the school’s headmaster, and the contradictions in their beliefs about “diversity” and what liberal white America truly is. The conflict arises when their only son, who gets deferred for Early Decision by Yale, starts speaking about the supposed injustices he’s faced by not getting accepted and instead getting deferred, when his black classmate and fellow basketball player friend gets admitted. His parents call him out on his state of being spoiled and privileged and his racism, and he has a change of heart that ultimately results in massive conflicting feelings for both his parents about how much diversity they really want in life.
The play was extremely well done, and it also brought up a lot of questions I’ve had that I’ve never been able to answer. While their son is screaming and bemoaning not getting into Yale, he also calls out the contradictions of how Americans view people of “color”: why is it that people in Argentina or Chile who speak Spanish are considered “brown,” “Latino,” “Hispanic,” and thus people of color, but someone who speaks the exact same language, Spanish, in Spain, is not necessarily considered “brown” or “Hispanic,” but instead is categorized as “white”? Here’s the case in point that I actually thought about while in high school watching the horrible film Vanilla Sky, in which Penelope Cruz was a costar. Penelope Cruz is Spanish, from Madrid, Spain, yet she’s oftentimes given roles in which she portrays people from Latin America (hi, Frida Kahlo). Hollywood kind of views her as white… but not really given a lot of the roles that she’s played? So because of this, why do we not consider people from Chile or Argentina “white”? What the hell really is the difference?
What it ultimately brings up are the contradictions of how we perceive race and “color” in the world here in the U.S. We love to label and pigeon-hole everyone. Some people are considered more “white” than others, therefore more “acceptable.” Frankly, it’s easier for someone from Chile or Argentina, based on her face, to “blend in” as a white person in white America than someone like Chris or me ever could. The fact that we have to have these conversations is just so ridiculous and makes me feel unsettled about race in general and the supposed “progress” we have made.