Broadway is Back, But Should It Still Be Called The Great White Way?

Perhaps it is time to retire Broadway’s nickname in favor of one more representative of our diversity.

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Perhaps you have heard that Broadway theatre in New York has opened up again, hopefully to the safe benefit of New Yorkers and visitors who love live theatre. On September 14th, Chicago, Hamilton, The Lion King, and Wicked all reopened. If you are familiar with these shows, collectively they celebrate and reflect much of the cultural diversity of the United States.

And yet, as part of the publicity for those openings, the nickname for a large section of Broadway is still being used. It is “The Great White Way,” which originally referred to the lighting illumination of Broadway that emerged at the turn of the 20th century. Even the title of a book published last year, The Great White Way: Race and The Broadway Musical, used the term. A strong contention of the book is the hidden racial agendas of these musicals. The author, Warren Hoffman, argues that at least until recently, the history of “The Great White Way” is the history of so-called white identity. The trouble now with the nickname is our concern with white privilege, and that nickname can exclusively suggest the greatness of the way of white people.

Perhaps, then, there should be a call for a new nickname for Broadway which will be less racist. How about “The Great Broad Way,” with “broad” referring to our diversity? Or, “The Great Colorful Way,” referring to all the various hues of our skin? Maybe you have other suggestions. If so, let us know.

Send your thoughts to PTEditor@MMHGroup.com.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.