Things That Matter

A White Woman Is Going Viral For Saying That Broadway’s ‘Slave Play’ Is Racist Against White People

Black playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ buzzworthy Slave Play, has been both revered and abhorred by audience members. The show has received much critical acclaim after opening a month ago but a recent tirade, caught on camera, of an audience member alleging the play was racist against white people shows just how uncomfortable stories about anti-blackness and white supremacy make viewers. The broadway comedy tells the story of three interracial couples during the Antebellum-era who use slave role-playing as sexual therapy. 

Harris believes the white woman’s rant, which lasted several minutes, was merely life imitating art. The video of the woman’s confrontation went viral. Many people dismissed her expletive-filled rant as “white fragility,” according to the Washington Post. 

Harris shared the video on his own Twitter account.

Harris and an actor sat down for a Q&A after a show. That’s when the white woman got up from her seat and began shouting. She asked how the play wasn’t “racist against white people?” She claimed that there was “a whole bunch of stuff about how white people don’t get how racist they are,” in the video. 

The audience begins to murmur but Harris explains that the play is about eight people and can’t reflect every single person. He told her it was all a metaphor, and if she isn’t like the white characters in his play then good. 

“I never once said that you as a white woman were not a marginalized person,” Harris responds. “But if you heard that in my play, I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps read it or see it again.”

Harris joked that she gave the audience an amazing second play. Despite grumbles, the woman persistently tried to yell her point until finally storming out of the theater. The audience applauded her departure. 

“The plays shows the unconscious ways that white people take up space, that they don’t leave open for black people,” Harris told The Washington Post. “This play doesn’t necessarily have to be about her … but she did just create her own character.”

Twitter users continued to point out the irony in the woman’s behavior. 

“My fave part of this is that she’s standing up to yell in a theatre about her white oppression. It’s my favorite because 1: oppressed people don’t get to do that. A black man would’ve been arrested for this behavior or worse,” one user wrote on Twitter. “2: she’s sitting in a seat a black person wouldn’t have been able to sit in half a century ago.”

Harris told the Washington Post he didn’t want to be dismissive of the woman, instead, he’d rather engage in a conversation with her. 

“It would have been hypocritical of me as someone who said from the beginning, I wanted this to be a play that sparked conversations,” he told The Washington Post.

Many people thought it was outrageous that the woman’s complaint was that white people were portrayed sympathetically in a play about slavery in the Antebellum era. 

“A play about slavery, and her complaint is that HER experience wasn’t represented? Makes me ashamed to be a white woman,” another user tweeted. 

Slave Play has received criticism from white and black audience members alike. 

There is currently a Change.org petition with over 6,000 signatures to shut down the broadway show. The creator of the petition claims it is anti-black. However, by her own admission the sentiment comes from the predominantly white audience’s reactions to what was in it.

“This past Saturday I attended Slave Play for the 8 pm showing. I wanted to verbalize that this was one of the most disrespectful displays of anti-Black sentiment disguised as art that I have ever seen,” the petition reads. “As a Black woman, I was terribly offended and traumatized by the graphic imagery mixed with laughter from a predominantly white audience.”

Broadway audiences tend to be largely white due to the high cost of tickets. Slave Play hosted a “Black Out” night where discounted tickets were provided to a black audience of 800 — a rarity in broadway. 

“We can succumb to a fear-based culture really easily, especially when bad people are in charge. That’s when we should be the loudest and the most individualistic because that’s the only way to actually combat fascism,” Harris told The Guardian of some of his black critics. “When I speak to artists – especially artists from oppressed groups – I see them necessitating this self-censorship. And I’m like: “No, be free! The only time you can be free in this world is when you’re writing.”

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