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Kanye West's Casting Call Season 4 of Yeezy: Was It Illegal?

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By George Khoury, Esq. on September 08, 2016 7:00 AM

Kanye West has succeeded again in unintentionally creating controversy. His most recent casting call for the 4th season of his television program, Yeezy, was blatantly discriminatory, and according to legal experts, illegal, too. Not surprisingly, the internet reacted with righteous indignation and furious anger.

In the casting call, West explicitly states "MULTIRACIAL WOMEN ONLY." This isn't the mythical reverse racism some allege it to be; it is just plain old, regular, insidious racism, and it's very likely illegal.

Exclusion Based on a Protected Class Is Illegal Unless...

While it is a popular notion that casting directors can discriminate based on race, this is untrue. There is a legal concept, known as the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ), that allows some protected classes to be excluded from employment when their ages or genders actually make a difference in their ability to perform a job. Trying to include race as a BFOQ is generally impermissible. For example, a locker room attendant at a gym may have their gender considered when applying if they are going to be around unclothed gym members. Unlike age or gender, race should never have a bearing on hiring.

When it comes to the stage and screen, race has been a hot-button topic. Minorities are clearly under-represented on both stage and screen. Since there is, and/or was, no affirmative action for the media, Hollywood has been left relatively unchecked when it came to hiring practices. After all, a minority actor can't do much when they're not chosen, especially given the fact that casting involves more than just acting skill, but also appearance, demeanor, voice, and popularity.

What Can Be Done About Racist Casting?

If you suspect that you have been the victim of a racist casting call or audition, you may be able to enforce your civil rights to be free from discrimination. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, you will have to prove that you were qualified for the role and not selected (because of your race/other protected characteristic), and someone of a different race, who is less qualified, was chosen. Like all claims under Title VII, you can reach out to the EEOC for more information and to file a claim.

What's strange about West's casting call is that there is almost no way to verify whether someone is or isn't "multiracial." While he clearly was trying to do something good, he inadvertently discriminated against every single non-mixed minority group out there.

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