A Little Bit Racist

I went to all six Broadway in Bryant Park performances this year, and as always it was a complete delight: the international summer fashion, the toddlers playing on the lawn and world class voices on the stage. But I do have complaints. First, the Avenue Q song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” should really be titled “Everyone’s a Little Bit Prejudice,” although that would clearly not be as catchy. Sorry to get academic, but racism is based on a historically constructed term created to maintain white privilege, so racism does not apply to white ethnics like Polish or even Jews, at least since the last century.

But not just “a little bit” racist is the character Christmas Eve who sings “The More You Ruv Someone.” WTF, really? First performed in 2003, Q’s depiction of its only Asian character as an ever foreign, heavily accented stereotype, was already very dated. Broadway has long been a desert for Asian-Americans, and this is what we get?

The much maligned Flower Drum Song from 1958, written by two white guys, was miles ahead in its complex portrayal of the immigrant story. And the 1961 movie remained one of the few Hollywood films with a primarily Asian cast until the recently released Crazy Rich Asians.

Can Avenue Q be saved? Yes, just cut this character and integrate other characters with Asian American performers. Q does have solid show tunes, such as “There’s a Fine, Fine Line”, which I saw performed in Bryant Park a couple years back by Veronica Kuehn. She was great, but the song could easily be sung by countless talented Asian performers just looking for their shot on the big stage.

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