Before I launch on my tirade, I’ll define what shadeism is for people who aren’t familiar with it. Shadeism is discrimination based on the shade of one’s skin color within a singular race. Shadeism is almost always a result of racism perpetrated by whites. In Western cultures, people of color are told that their skin tone is undesirable, ugly, and not beautiful; that it is indeed outside of the norm. Because of globalization and the aftermath of colonialism, shadeism pervades almost all PoC societies. People of color are most often perpetrators of shadeism against people of their own race. Yes, even with our own people, PoC can’t catch a fucking break.
In this particular case, Lionsgate’s shadeism—which is only a footnote to their larger racism—exhibits itself in the preference of light-skinned African Americans to those who are darker skinned. The casting call for what is most likely Rue’s family members is as follows
African American children 12 and younger. Light medium skin tone very thin. [x]
Now, let’s examine how Rue is described in the books.
She [Rue] has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor.
Does Amandla Stenberg correspond to Rue as she is described in the text?
The answer is no. Amandla’s skin tone is olive; as a matter of fact, it is more similar to the color that people in District 12 should have exhibited. She is more like Seeder, a woman from District 11 who is likewise described as having olive skin. Ergo, do people of Amandla’s appearance and skin color exist in District 11? Yes. But does she look like Rue? No. The text itself refutes any possibility of Rue’s skin being like Amandla’s. By casting a light-skinned African American child as Rue when the text explicitly describes Rue as dark-skinned, Lionsgate is sending out the message that African American children with darker skin tones are undesirable and have no place in their films.
To rectify their shadeism, Lionsgate could have provided opportunities for darker skinned African Americans in their cast. Instead, the casting call for Rue’s family members excludes dark-skinned blacks altogether. While the need for consistency is understandable, it is not necessary and only further shows Lionsgate’s ignorance in racial matters. Families of PoC can have variance in their skin tones even whilst being related to one another. At the very least, dark-skinned African Americans should have had a chance to audition as one of Rue’s family members. Such is not the case. They are excluded from auditioning by dint of their skin shade.