Leah Jeffries transcends the racist backlash


Photo Credit: The Daily Dot

Disney+ has announced that Annabeth Chase is going to be played by Leah Jeffries, a 12-year-old Black girl,  in the upcoming adaptation of the beloved novel, Percy Jackson and The Olympians, and white people are mad.

Leah Jeffries is not the only Black girl that has been targeted by white fans and has had her social media flooded with disgusting, racist comments. The same thing happened to Halle Bailey when she was announced as Ariel in the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid, and Zendaya when she was cast as MJ in 2017 for Spider-man: Homecoming. Let’s not forget Celina Smith when she played Annie in NBC’s Annie Live! when she was the same 

This 12-year-old girl has sadly been forced into this group of talented, beautiful young Black women and children who have to deal with getting comments from bigoted people on the internet.

People have been harassing Jeffries by commenting racial slurs under her posts, mass reporting her TikTok account, and saying  that she isn’t their Annabeth. 

Jeffries went on Instagram Live to tell fans that her TikTok account has been banned due to people mass reporting it. “Apparently, my TikTok has been banned. Yes, my TikTok has been banned. Someone banned the account, and I now have no more TikTok,” the 12-year-old actress said. “I guess all the people that did not want me to be Annabeth or something, they literally took down my whole account, so I now do not have a TikTok account no more.”

TikTok is also a social media platform that has had issues in the past with Black content creators’ accounts getting deleted for unjust reasons or getting deleted due to mass reporting by white supremacist troll accounts, and since these complaints and an article on Buzzfeed “Black Creators On TikTok Say Their Accounts Are Being Banned For Strange And Unjust Reasons.” 

TikTok has released a statement in response saying, “TikTok is a community with millions of diverse creators, and the platform wouldn’t be what it is today without the range of voices and experiences our creators bring. We’re committed to seeing that our policies and practices are fair and equitable.”

Twitter users would start using the hashtag “#LeahisOurAnnabeth” in support of Jeffries, to combat the hate she has been receiving. One Twitter user Dylan St. James tweeted, “Those of you harassing, abusing, maligning, and degrading a 12-year-old for excelling in her craft and winning a role are disgusting racists. Period. No Discussion. #LeahisOurAnnabeth and she will be protected, defended and respected as such. Shine on, babygirl. We got you.” 

Rick Riordan, the author of Percy Jackson and The Olympians, published a blog post on May 10th titled Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase that read, “If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame. Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now.”

Riordan later in the post writes, “Racism/colorism isn’t something we have or don’t have. I have it. You have it. We all do. And not just white people like me. All people. It’s either something we recognize and try to work on, or it’s something we deny. Saying ‘I am not racist!’ is simply declaring that you deny your own biases and refuse to work on them.”

Alexandria Daddario, who played Annabeth Chase in the Percy Jackson movie series, tweeted, “Leah Jeffries is going to be an incredible Annabeth!”

The fact that the author, Rick Riordan, and the original actor, Alexandria Daddario had to come out and denounce the racism and harassment that a 12-year-old girl has been dealing with is absolutely repulsive, she’s a child. I’m glad that they both have come out and supported her and not just let the bullying she has dealt with go on while they stay silent, but they shouldn’t have had to be forced to do this at all. I hope that the cycle of young Black girls being recast as white characters, and then being cyberbullied for it will end, but I know it won’t. 

As the author, Rick Riordan wrote in his blog post, “The core message of Percy Jackson has always been that difference is strength. There is power in plurality. The things that distinguish us from one another are often our marks of individual greatness. You should never judge someone by how well they fit your preconceived notions. That neurodivergent kid who has failed out of six schools, for instance, may well be the son of Poseidon. Anyone can be a hero.” 

“If you don’t get that, if you’re still upset about the casting of this marvelous trio, then it doesn’t matter how many times you have read the books. You didn’t learn anything from them.”