Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition’s struggle is against institutional racism, not actors.


October 13, 2013

Point of clarification: there seems to be quite a few uninformed people trying to misrepresent our struggle as “activists versus actors,” going so far as to make statements such as “I stand with Orville Mendoza” and accusing Minnesota activists of attacking actors.

The Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition has not collectively attacked the actors. We simply do not find it productive, as a collective, to do so. Many coalition members are Asian American actors themselves, and are fully aware of what a difficult situation the Ordway and other producers of this play place them in. As a coalition we know our time and energy is better spent confronting institutional racism. We are not interested, as some have suggested, in looking over Asian American actors’ shoulders to monitor their decisions. To suggest our struggle is “actors vs. activists” is inaccurate and distracts from our true struggle: our fight against colonialist, racist, sexist productions like Miss Saigon and institutions like the Ordway.

Some of the misunderstanding comes from an open letter by Orville Mendoza, who plays the engineer in Miss Saigon. It is important to point out a sentence in his letter which states “There is also a suggestion that we Asian artists involved in the show are selling out.” Some people have read Mr. Mendoza’s letter and have inferred that Don’t Buy Miss Saigon coalition is attacking the character of the cast as well as accusing us of censorship. When Mr. Mendoza was publicly challenged to name which of our coalition members suggested that he was a “sell out”, he admitted he was referring to a blog that had nothing to do with our coalition or even the Minnesota organizers currently involved.

Some of the misunderstanding comes from certain individuals who are trying to spin this into a censorship issue. There is a difference between censorship, and holding institutions like the Ordway accountable for using taxpayer dollars earmarked for cultural community enrichment and producing work well known to be racist, sexist, and colonialist. (Check out Sheila Regan’s insightful look at censorship.)

The members of Don’t Buy Miss Saigon coalition take great care in educating ourselves and thinking about the ramifications of our statements and positions before speaking out. We urge those who defend the actions of the Ordway, a multimillion dollar institution that both supports and is supported by institutional racism, to do the same.