The hype around the Broadway musical Hamilton is well deserved but it derives from the wrong race. The show, written by Tony award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, is for all but the racial message behind it is not, and never will be, for white people.
Too many times I have I heard my privileged white friends talk about Hamilton as though they have to “smash every expectation” or “rise up”. They walk around and talk about problems as though they are “immigrants, getting the job done” even though they have hardly worked a day in their lives. Then these people turn to me, a Lin-Manuel adoring, slightly privileged, sexually-unidentified, history-loving, black female writer in America, and try to tell me how they relate to Hamilton so much and that “I just wouldn’t understand”.
I’m not writing this to say that white people shouldn’t be allowed to listen to the show. I’m not saying that they can’t love the songs. All I’m saying is that a musical as racially diverse as Hamilton can’t possibly speak volumes for a person who has never experienced racism. Alexander Hamilton’s story can’t richly touch the hearts of a person who doesn’t even like their history class or a person who never had to worry about immigration, or a person who has never had to rise above colossal obstacles to get to where they want to go because their biggest disadvantage is something they have no control over.
I find it unfair how I had to go through an entire year of listening to the soundtrack over and over, watching #Ham4Ham videos just so I can see the cast, learning as much as I could about the actual time period, watching documentaries, getting as much Hamilton as I could because seeing the show wasn’t an option for me and my friends are hearing the soundtrack for the first time through a bootleg they found online. I think it’s unfair how they try to tell me things about a musical I can directly relate to, but when I talk about it they tell me to “be quiet”.
They praise Lin-Manuel and Alexander Hamilton for constantly writing but shame me for doing the same thing, even though I’ve been writing since before I even knew about Hamilton.
I think it is absolutely insane how they love the show for its diversity but get mad at the idea of having a racially diverse cast in their own school plays. At my school, every single show is white washed and the students can change that because they are heavily involved in the casting process.
So, I just want to say that to every white person, or highly privileged human who loves Hamilton, I hate to burst your bubble, but Hamilton isn’t for you. The cast’s diversity isn’t supposed to make you cry. Their diversity is for people like me. People who would love to do Broadway but are stopped short because of the color of their skin or power in their voice. People who work their ass off and get nothing in return because racist America isn’t prepared to be told that white people are not superior at all.
The show is for the parents who want their children to be proud of their skin tone but have no one for their child to look up to. It is for the people who suffer from discrimination and need a voice because theirs has been made quiet. It is for the people who want to “rise up” but have been told to “talk less, smile more”.