Ithaca High School has canceled its spring production of the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” after students protested the casting of a white teenager they believe was intended for a minority.
The original protestors, who refer to themselves at the “Ithaca Five”, took their complaint to a local paper with an editorial stating how they saw the role of Esmeralda as an oppressed character and an opportunity for a minority to fill the spot.
“I think very quickly it became much bigger than just the casting of this one show,” Annabella Mead-Vancort, a senior at Ithaca High School, said. “I think it became about a whole system that was in place.”
The school board decided to cancel the show in January. Since then, the five have received hundreds of hate-filled messages. In some, they were called “the real Nazi’s” and “racist scums.”
Ithaca High School needed to increase security as a result.
“We condemn the cruel and threatening attacks on our students, staff, families, and community,” a portion of a statement from the school board said. “Our children deserve civility and love.”
“It was definitely really scary,” Prachi Ruina, one of the protestors, said. “I never thought that it would get this big.”
The “Ithaca Five” eventually hope their protest will spread to other high schools and spark a bigger conversation about race and privilege in the United States.
“It’s okay to talk about race,” Ari Cummings, another member of the group, said. “It’s good to talk about race because then it comes with another level of understanding for all humans to try to get on the same level of equality.”