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Rue and racial slurs

Published: March 30, 2012
Section: Opinions


Unless you have recently been living under a rock, you may have realized that the movie “The Hunger Games” was released this past weekend. Besides filling up the pockets of Hollywood producers—the movie grossed around $155 million its opening weekend and is expected to make another $60 million this weekend—it also served as the latest launching pad for catapulting American racism into the news.

“The Hunger Games,” the first book in a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, tells the enthralling story of a post-apocalyptic world in which a country, Panem, located in what was once North America, hosts an annual televised battle to the death for the amusement of its sadistic leaders.

While the film received mixed reviews, there was a portion of fans who were so distraught and angered by the casting director’s choices regarding a few side characters that they turned to their Twitters to display their outrage. “The Hunger Games,” since its release in novel form in 2008, has inspired a cult-like following that, despite claiming to love the book, missed key descriptive portions of the text regarding the attributes of the characters. These fans instead decided to assume that all the characters were white. You can only imagine their shock when they walked into the theater and saw that some of their most beloved characters—instead of being cast as the blond-haired, blue-eyed white kids they were expecting—were instead greeted with non-white actors filling up the screen.

One of the characters garnering the most negative attention regarding their race is Rue. Originally described in the book as having “dark brown skin and eyes,” the role of the girl who befriends the lead girl, Katniss, was filled by a young, black actress named Amandla Stenberg. The tweets of some passionately racist fans following their discovery of Stenberg’s role were downright alarming and hint that although some may claim that we live in a “post-racial” America, that label is far from accurate.

I would like to say not all the tweets discovered about Rue’s race weren’t scary, but they were. Some expressed disappointment that a black girl was chosen as Rue while others claimed that Rue’s death was less sad because she was black. At least that tweeter at the time hashtagged “i hate myself” although that doesn’t excuse his racist remark. More tweets along these lines were floating out there in cyberspace until the tweeters belatedly realized the offensiveness of their remarks and deleted them, but not before screenshots could be taken for posterity.

These tweets in conjunction with the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17 year old, highlight the undertones of racism present in America. Regardless of the fact that charges have not yet been brought against George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman who shot Trayvon in the chest, the incident is undoubtedly racially charged. And, although these disgruntled fans’ racism is taking the form of words and not violent action, in no way does it make them less potent and unsettling. These despicable tweets are not representative of all of the “Hunger Games” fans, but they do point out a serious problem existing in our society.

It is hard to be positive about the state of racial equality in America after the last few weeks. While it is amazing that children who were born today live in a world where not only a white man has been president; a black man in the oval office isn’t the end of the conversation and evaluation of the state of race in America today. Both Trayvon and the racist remarks about the casting of Rue are simply reminders that we can’t be content and idle with our society perceives and deals with race. If people can become so enraged over something as arbitrary as a casting choice in a movie, we have a long way to go before the words “racial equality in America” can ever be uttered truthfully.