"Following Blackface Incident, Professor Bright Sheng Takes Step Back from Teaching [University of Michigan] Composition Course"

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So reports the Michigan Daily (Francesca Duong). The "blackface incident"? Why, it's a "screening of the 1965 version of 'Othello,'" with Laurence Olivier made up in the title role as the black Othello.

Five days after Sheng showed the video, on Sept. 15, [David Gier, dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance] sent a department-wide email acknowledging the incident and apologizing for what students experienced.

"Professor Sheng's actions do not align with our School's commitment to anti-racist action, diversity, equity and inclusion," Gier said.

The email also stated the incident had been reported to the Office of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX.

A letter "signed by 18 undergraduate composition students, 15 graduate composition students and nine SMTD staff and faculty members"

also called for Sheng to be immediately removed from teaching the undergraduate composition seminar, saying he failed to create a safe environment despite the fact that SMTD faculty are required to take training courses regarding racism in academia and have access to multitudes of resources. In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen confirmed that 100% of full-time faculty had attended these training sessions in the previous academic year.

I think that if University of Michigan students find watching a 1965 version of Othello with Laurence Olivier made up as black to "create" an "[un]safe environment," it's hard for me to see how they can deal with history classes, with literature classes, with law classes, or for that matter with life. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds [Instapundit] for the pointer.)

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  1. Agreed

    Apparently stupidity is an equal opportunity affliction, affecting people of every race, creed, religion, political affiliation, age, employment position etc.

    Even worse is that these people do not realize that their unjustified reaction is counter productive, increasing the liklihood that anyone will take them seriously when they do have legitimate complaint.

    Sigh, the gods tremble.

    1. Shut it down. Shut down the woke scumbag, traitor school. To deter. We are sick of the of these vile scumbags.

      All woke is case. Woke is to avoid ruinous litigation by the scumbag lawyer profession. Arrest the traitor hierarchy. Try them an hour. The sole evidence would be their legal utterances. Shoot them in the court basement after the verdict of treason. Treason means serving the interests of the Chinese Commie Party.

    2. Finally, I agree with Sidney.
      These students need a spanking.

      1. It couldn't hurt, but what they really need is something that evidently their parents weren't, and that the school administrators aren't: someone to tell them, "No."

        We expect young people to have dumb ideas. We expect adults to guide them towards better ideas. But these people apparently never had anyone say to them, "I admire your passion, but your ideas are stupid and you need to go rethink them."

        1. Speaking personally the Mickey Rooney yellow face character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” did evoke a physical reaction in me…it didn’t hurt me but it was definitely a strong reaction.

        2. David...Thanks for the laugh on a Friday afternoon = We expect young people to have dumb ideas. We expect adults to guide them towards better ideas. But these people apparently never had anyone say to them, “I admire your passion, but your ideas are stupid and you need to go rethink them.”

          I've had a few of those moments with some of my younger staff. Your line brought back some hilarious workplace memories.

        3. "someone to tell them, “No.”

          They are really uncivilized savages in a lot of ways.

          A normal civilized person would have quietly discussed this with the prof after class. Then, maybe make a private complaint to the dean.

    3. I'd imagine the gods would have much more pressing concerns...

    4. Only the crudest of minds cannot see the Emperor's new finery. Do you see it? Doesn't it make you feel attacked so you might collapse with a case of the vapors.

      This all derives from the First Amendment's absolutist nature, driving the "work around" allowing denial of funding from Congress. Then, exactly as those who study these things see through history, the provisions have rationalized ethical implications.

      Attendant virtue signalling about how ethically awful violators are ensues.

      People forgot the anti-vaccine craze was started over bad science that it caused autism. Nevermind. Vaccines have adopted "bad for you" baggage that survives long after the bad science platform supporting it rusted away in the wind and disappeared.

      1. It's ironic these woke folk, where woke is defined as being aware of something important in the deep nature of reality, are running around with the thickest layer of wool over their eyes since Salem in the 1600s.

        America is not a shitty place. It is, as business jargon might say, in a condition of continuous, measurable improvement, process level 4!

    5. "Even worse is that these people do not realize that their unjustified reaction is counter productive, increasing the liklihood that anyone will take them seriously when they do have legitimate complaint."

      No, they just understand that they will never have a legitimate complaint, so they don't care about foreclosing them.

  2. change 'anyone' to 'no one'.

  3. We really, REALLY need to bring back Involuntary Commitment for the obviously insane and stupid. It would go a long way toward protecting society at large.

    1. Bringing back dueling would be even more effective.

    2. Yes. It still amazes me how quickly some will cave to an extremely loud, tiny minority. The appropriate response, IMO, would have been: "Here, enjoy a nice steaming cup of STFU. Then, when you've matured enough to join adult society, come back and I'll explain just how stupid your 'poutrage' was."

      1. Pout-rage?

        I love it; I am stealing that one.

        1. Only fair. I stole it from someone else, but it's been so long I can't recall.

  4. "Five days after Sheng showed the video, on Sept. 15, Gier sent a department-wide email acknowledging the incident and apologizing for what students experienced."

    Sigh. Professors should be taught to never apologize for these sorts of incidents. They just end up validating the ridiculous complaints and making the situation worse.

    1. 12",
      I heartily agree.
      Apologizing for doing nothing wrong only perpetuates such nonsense.

      1. Gier wasn't the one who committed the alleged offense, so his apology had no meaning anyway. It was the professor Sheng who misguidedly apologized.

        1. David, all woke is case and fear of ruinous litigation. We are going to get rid of you scumbag lawyer traitors. Come the second Trump presidency, you are going to camp.

          1. All Behar is incoherent insanity.

    2. Will he apologize to me for the high price I paid to see 'Hamilton' only to see white men portrayed by black men?

    3. Absolutely agree.

      Then, when they are actually called for, apologies would actually still mean something.

      Suppose, for example, that a professor called a student a "lying, dog-faced pony soldier" and the student was offended. An apology might be in order even if the intent of the statement wasn't to be derogatory but was just some misremembered mish-mash of quotes from old movies that the professor assumed, incorrectly, the student would know.

      Or, for example, suppose a professor's wife had just left him taking the kids and all the money and his dog and just died and he was very stressed and inappropriately lashed out at a student who was being mildly obnoxious calling her a "ugly, stupid b...h whore". Then a sincere apology would be due.

      But in this case the only apology due was something like "I apologize for my mistaken belief that you were young adults rather than toddlers who had been raised badly. I also apologize for not counseling you at the beginning of the class to drop out of the university and resume your education a convenient pre-school near your parent's house".

  5. I like how everyone above (including Prof. Volokh), is crying about the student when it's the school that should be chastised.

    What happened to the defense of academic freedom we've been reading about?

    1. If you don't think that the fact that students who are unable to stomach a 1965 Shakespeare performance might have problems handling other areas of academic and non-academic life is worth mentioning, you are free not to mention it. Other people may feel differently.

      1. But what's the bigger problem?

        Individuals (who admittedly are not acting the way some of us would) or an institution which is taking poor actions towards the situation?

        1. Well, since you asked, I suppose the bigger problem is the faculty being punished, although other people may disagree.

          But it doesn't follow that someone posting on the situation may only comment on the biggest problem.

          Especially since the academic freedom problem here seems pretty straightforward, but issue of how these emotionally stulted students might have issues in other academic or professional areas is not.

          1. However, that "someone posting" happens to be Prof. Volokh.

            The guy who reaches out to universities in these types of situations.
            The guy who actively pushes academic freedom.
            The guy who 1 - 2 times monthly blogs about academic freedom.
            The guy who is a university professor and instead of seeing a teaching opportunity, belittles the student.

            1. apedad,
              I don't see your point. Explain better.

              1. See my initial sentence above.

        2. The school can be sued for wrongful dismissal, and potentially libel. That can be corrected.

          The only correction for the students is public shaming. So, let's publicly shame them. Make them realize how absurd and hateful they were acting. Hopefully they will learn from this.

          1. "The only correction for the students is public shaming."

            Jeez, I'd think in a university setting education, discussions, workshops, etc., would be appropriate activities.

            But yeah, let's shame them because that's so much more effective.

            1. When a faculty member is pressured to "step back" from presenting a course, it is hard to have an open discussion with the "offended" students.

              1. Because you know from experience?

              2. The stalker strikes again.

                1. Don't post here if you don't want people responding to you...

                2. The stalker answers.

                  1. Notice that the stalker has made no other posts or comments to anyone else

                    1. Except on other posts today I did. Don't be offended that your comment was notably deficient.

                    2. The stalker continues

                    3. "He" apparently doesn't know how to quit you.

                    4. No, Scooter, he doesn't.
                      He is just upset that I did not fall for his "have you stopped beating your wife question.

                    5. Mute me if you don't want me to respond to your posts here, because I will continue to respond to the posts I find worthy of response on this free speech blog you insufferable snowflake.

        3. "But what’s the bigger problem?"

          The students. Colleges are a lost cause.

          The students are going to go out and infect the rest of the world.

    2. Excellent point.
      "What happened to the defense of academic freedom we’ve been reading about?"
      It is heading down the toilet.

    3. apedad: Sorry, but how am I "crying about the student"? I quoted the statement from the Dean, and a group letter signed by a bunch of students and by nine "staff and faculty" members.

      1. “… or for that matter life.”

        Unless I’m mistaken that’s your words And you’re shaming the student.

        1. Not really, apedad. EV was just pointing out the obvious.

        2. you’re shaming the student

          If a college student does something shameful (and, in this case, stupid), why can't we point that out?

    4. I like how everyone above (including Prof. Volokh), is crying about the student when it’s the school that should be chastised.

      What happened to the defense of academic freedom we’ve been reading about?

      F-

      Next time, please read carefully and try to ask a question that is on topic.

  6. It's not like there is not a lot of real bigotry to protest. Consider this from North Carolina's Lt. Governor

    “There is no reason anybody, anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality or any of that filth,” Robinson said to applause from the congregation.

    “And yes, I called it filth. And if you don’t like it that I called it filth, come see me about it.”

    Yep, that's what people who really concerned about bigotry and hatred should be fighting, no Olivier doing Othello.

    1. That guy from North Carolina should be guest-blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy any day now . . .

      (Another version, from the author)

  7. What amazes me here is the failure of the educational function. Here's a GREAT situation to teach something these students probably know NOTHING about- the different historical traditions of minstrelsy (which gave us blackface) and classical drama and Shakespeare, where actors routinely played roles of characters very different from themselves (in antiquity, men even played women on stage).

    So you could actually teach them that "no, actually, Olivier appearing in Othello, whether or not you think it's appropriate, is not 'blackface' and has a completely different intellectual history, separate from the reasons we rightly condemn minstrel shows".

    But that would require schools actually engage in education and not simply give in to whatever the demands are.

    1. I doubt professors are permitted to teach that blackface in this context is less offensive than blackface in other contexts.

      1. For that the professor might be fired.

        1. He could however, run for governor in VA. 🙂

      2. Yes, and perhaps he could have used the Canadian prime minister as an example?

        1. Or the Gov. of VA.

    2. They’re teaching what they intend to teach: a method to justify and implement totalitarianism.

    3. And we could also teach students that there are uncountable reasons to pretend to be someone of a different race that have nothing to do with minstrel shows or intending to mock or insult another person.

  8. Liberals in Virginia called for Governor Ralph Northam to step down, due to his blackface picture in his college yearbook, until they got the word from on high.

    Apparently Prof. Sheng doesn’t have friends in the DNC.

    1. Or perhaps the professor replacing Prof. Sheng hasn't been accused of rape.

    2. Prof. Sheng, being of Asian descent, is of no use to the left except to the extent that he might be used to demonize white nationalists whenever someone of his continental heritage is assaulted by a black American.

    3. Was it ever established who selected that college yearbook picture?
      Was it ever established who is in the picture either in blackface or in a hood?
      'Twas not in the timeframe I was aware.
      My sneaking suspicion is that the editors of the yearbook said, "hey, we don't have a pic for this Northam guy, but he is from Virginia, let's use this darkie & klansman pic for grins and giggles."

      For the record, I don't like Northam or the VA Dem party, but facts on this were not established to my satisfaction.

  9. "Never apologize, Mister. It's a sign of weakness."
    Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles

    1. Yaay! We agree on something.

      I never apologize for anything.

      Either I meant to do the dastardly deed or I honestly believed it was appropriate.

      At the same time, we can - without apologizing - own up to misjudgments, errors, laziness, i.e. human frailties.

    2. "It’s a sign of weakness.”

      Yes, I only apologize to my wife!

      1. Yeah....you can't 'not' apologize to the wife. They rule the roost.

  10. Obviously they don’t actually feel "unsafe". Pretending about safety is their way to exercise totalitarian control with the help of complicit administrators.

    1. I used to think they didn't myself. However, after seeing the events since March of last year I'm forced to concede that a significant portion of the population really is too cowardly to live.

  11. I think that if University of Michigan students find watching a 1965 version of Othello with Laurence Olivier made up as black to "create" an "[un]safe environment," it's hard for me to see how they can deal with history classes, with literature classes, with law classes, or for that matter with life.

    Well, these ARE theater kids we're talking about, so it's just about what I'd expect. I was about to say that I'd expect more from the administration and faculty, but then...nah...these are theater professors too, so no surprise here. And the UM president has just been forced to announce step down next year, so don't look for much from top administrators at this point either.

  12. These kids are being trained as the brown shirts of a authoritarian movement. They’re using the woke-speak as a weapon. The goal isn’t fight racism (which is a noble cause) - it’s to destroy careers to create fear and obedience. If anyone pulls this crap with me, I’ll take it as a direct threat and assault on my ability to provide for myself and my family and will repel that assault in kind. We’re all potential targets of these bullies and we need to become hardened targets.

    1. Indeed, if they were actually concerned about fighting racism they might actually be aware that "Moor" and "Black" are entirely different things..

      1. Moors, Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages.
        Moors, a variant name for Melungeon (tri-racial isolate groups) in colonial North America.
        United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, an American religious group founded and led by Dwight York, which includes (among others) Yamassee Native American Moors of the Creek Nation.
        Black is a color which results from the absence or complete absorption of visible light.
        In general, the Negro race of African origin is called "Black", while the Caucasian race of European origin is called "White".

        1. I just noticed; those damn fools at Wikipedia capitalized "white".
          Let's start a pool on low long before it gets edited to the 'proper' lower case.

          1. CNN now capitalizes "White"

  13. Subhead to the Robby Soave article on the same subject:

    "Bright Sheng survived the Cultural Revolution. Or so he thought."

  14. Sheng is no ordinary prof but a big time modern composer. A MacArthur "Genius" plus a bunch of other honors. [per wikipedia]

    One of his leading compositions is a "memorial to the Cultural Revolution"

    Funny how a US version of the Red Guard is after him.

    1. Meet the new boss - - - - -

  15. I remember when calls to remove The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from reading lists (including optional lists) and even school libraries began. I was aghast and feared it was a step down a dangerous slippery slope. Sadly it appears my instincts were correct.

    I was mostly raised in almost exclusively white, middle/upper middle class areas. There was little, if any, outspoken racism in the general community but some seemed to think that blacks were not as smart or capable was others. This was inconsistent with my very limited experience as the lone black student in my class (and, possibly, in my entire K-8 school which probably had 250 or so students) seemed as smart as anyone else - certainly in the top 50%.

    In third grade, on my own, I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and found it to be an amusing quick read but came away with little enlightenment except that I still occasionally offer to let my wife do the dishes if she will offer me something in return (to her credit, she never falls for this).

    So, I did the next obvious thing and read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I read it as a good, although more difficult to read, story than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but came away with a feeling that I was maybe missing something from it. So, I read it again in fourth or possibly fifth grade. This time I got the notion that the smartest and cleverest character in the book was Jim and to the extent that he was marginalized it was because of his skin color and, without that, he would have likely been a quite "successful" (i.e., well off etc) person. I also got food for thought from other characters and situations. Yes, I was a bit surprised by the widespread use of the word "nigger" (which was already an unacceptable term in my community), but I understood it in the context of the time the book was set in so it didn't bother me (on the other hand, when I was living in the dorms in my freshman year I was shocked to hear some of the black students in the dorm calling each other "nigger" every other sentence).

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was, perhaps, the book that cemented my view that racism is a Very Bad Thing.

    Although I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on my own rather than as part of an assigned (or even optional) reading list, I fail to see how the book should be considered offensive. To the extent that it may be offensive to some students, the average fifth grader with a teacher's guidance and context should easily be able to view it properly.

    The notion that a student can't be exposed to something because they might imitate or take it as a role model is ridiculous. Surely a student can view a Renaissance painting depicting male and female full frontal nudity in a garden without assuming that it's perfectly acceptable to be nude in any garden anywhere.

  16. Let's just all commit suicide and let the woke idiots have the world to themselves. Then they can find out just how un-woke the rest of the world is.

    The good thing about killing ourselves is that we won't have to watch the rest of this story as the world goes to hell.

  17. As Lord Emperor of North America, I sentence each of the complainants to watch _Gone with the Wind_ and _Sixteen Candles_.

    What do you mean I'm not Lord Emperor? I have a keyboard, don't I?

    1. Honestly, "Sixteen Candles", when I watched it a few years ago, was the film that got me thinking there might be something to the concept of "rape culture".

  18. Although it seems to have come a long way, the University of Michigan still remains woefully behind the woke, hip, with-it efforts that the more racially progressive schools in the South were doing in the first half of the 20th century to create a fully safe environment for black students and protect them from trauma.

    Compared to that paradise of racial enlightenment, black students at the University of Michigan face regular exposure to trauma that racists in the administration do nothing to protect them from. They are forced to encounter trauma at lunch counters, in movies, even in bathrooms and at drinking fountains. Shame!

  19. So reports the Michigan Daily (Francesca Duong). The "blackface incident"? Why, it's a "screening of the 1965 version of 'Othello,'" with Laurence Olivier made up in the title role as the black Othello.
    Five days after Sheng showed the video, on Sept. 15, [David Gier, dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance] sent a department-wide email acknowledging the incident and apologizing for what students experienced.

    "Professor Sheng's actions do not align with our School's commitment to anti-racist action, diversity, equity and inclusion," Gier said.

    I can't wait until they show "Hamilton". The University of Michigan is a public institution. So if they attack a professor for showing a video of a white actor playing a black person, then they may never show a video, or put on a show, where a black actor plays a white person.

    And Alexander Hamilton was most certainly "white".

    The lawsuits on this front should be quite lucrative

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