1. Whitewashing isn’t just about casting; it’s also about the exertion of privilege and power, whether people are consciously aware of it or not. White people, used to occupying an outsized role in society, used to being the default, used to having entry to every space, simply carve into someone else’s space to force it to welcome them. If that means forcing other people out or jettisoning some of the meaning of the media they’re appropriating, so be it. Whitewashing becomes yet another assertion of dominance, and, yes, one of racism, because it is racist to take stories of racial minorities and rework them in a white image.

    The same, however, is not true of the reverse. An all-Indian As You Like It or all-Japanese La Fanciulla Del West is something very different; it actually is a deliberate and interesting artistic statement. It is a reworking of a classic and a subversion of a genre, a reclamation and exploration of media. People of colour and nonwhite people who explore media produced by and for white people and rework it are not committing an act of racism or appropriation because of the tremendous power imbalance here; what they are doing is confronting the power imbalance, but you cannot by any stretch of the imagination suggest that they are somehow creating or fostering the furtherance of an imbalance.

    Instead, adaptations of white media become acts of defiance, and powerful ones. They challenge assumptions in white media consumers; who is to say this character must be white? Who is to say that this environment must be England? These works threaten the white sense of cultural superiority by opening up the possibility of a world where white is not, in fact, always right, and where there is room in media for something other than white-dominated narratives.