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University of Michigan Students Accuse Prof. Of Racism For Screening Olivier’s ‘Othello’ In Class

University of Michigan Students Accuse Prof. Of Racism For Screening Olivier’s ‘Othello’ In Class

“a new professor will be taking over the class previously taught by Bright Sheng to ‘allow for a positive learning environment’.”

A professor at the University of Michigan named Bright Sheng has been removed from his class after students were “triggered” by a screening of the 1965 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello starring Laurence Olivier.

Professor Sheng was subsequently reported to the school’s office of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Emmett Jones reports at FOX News:

University of Michigan professor ousted from class after playing Othello film where star wore blackface

A University of Michigan music professor is facing backlash after showing the 1965 film “Othello” with star Laurence Olivier in blackface, a school official announced.

David Gier, dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, said a new professor will be taking over the class previously taught by Bright Sheng to “allow for a positive learning environment,” The American Spectator reports.

“Professor Sheng’s actions do not align with our school’s commitment to anti-racist action, diversity, equity and inclusion,” Gier said last week, adding that Sheng has been reported to the Office of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX.

Sheng, an accomplished professor, composer and conductor, teaches composition at the college.

Students who saw the film were upset that Olivier’s face was covered in Black make-up as he portrayed Shakespeare’s Othello. One of Sheng’s students, Olivia Cook, told the Michigan Daily that she was “stunned.”

“In such a school that preaches diversity and making sure that they understand the history of POC in America, I was shocked that [Sheng] would show something like this in something that’s supposed to be a safe space,” Cook said.

First, some context. The character of Othello has been played by white actors for hundreds of years. It is not a “blackface” portrayal, in that it’s not a minstrel character meant to mock. It is a serious and tragic character. It’s also worth noting that in Shakespeare’s time, most of the female characters were portrayed by men.

In fact, the first major film adaptation of Othello to star an African American actor didn’t happen until 1995, when Laurence Fishburne played the role.

You also have to consider that in modern productions of all of Shakespeare’s plays, all of the major roles have been played by persons of every gender and race. None of that mattered in this case, apparently.

In an ultimate twist of irony, Daniel Greenfield of Frontpage Mag notes that Professor Sheng is a survivor of Mao’s Cultural Revolution:

Unlike many modern victims of the cultural revolution, Sheng was around for the original Maoist cultural revolution.

Sheng: I took piano lessons when I was a child. According to my teacher, I was talented, although I didn’t really like it. Then the Cultural Revolution started and the Red Guards came and took the piano away, as it was considered “bourgeois.” I was rather happy at first about that since I didn’t have to practice. But a year later, I heard piano music on the radio one day and I realized how much I missed playing the piano. Since I didn’t have a piano at home, I would play it at school. Shortly afterwards, I decided I would like to play the piano all my life, although I didn’t think I could be a musician. My family isn’t a musical family.

During the Cultural Revolution, there was no high school and college because one of Mao’s missions was to demolish the education system. All the young teenagers graduating from junior high school could become social problems if they did not have jobs. Because the economy was not so great at the time, he decided to send all the young city people to the countryside to be “re-educated” by the peasants.

I can see how this situation spun out of control so quickly, but instead of indulging these students in their outrage, someone should have sat them down and explained why their anger is misplaced.

Featured image via YouTube.


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“Because the economy was not so great at the time, [Mao] decided to send all the young city people to the countryside to be “re-educated” by the peasants.”

This needs to happen here, to the woke cancellers. We’re getting up in age, and our horses certainly aren’t crapping any less as time goes on.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to henrybowman. | October 10, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    I have said in the past the Castro have the right idea. Taking all of the young people, and the office workers and putting them in the cane fields for the harvest each year. Very humbling for some at least.

    Ben Kent in reply to henrybowman. | October 10, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    Henry is 100% right. Send the woke out to farms to learn real life and no the utopia fantasies that are being fed to them every day.

    DSHornet in reply to henrybowman. | October 11, 2021 at 12:21 am

    Just teaching them how to change a tire – or a diaper – would be considered dire punishment.

Colonel Travis | October 10, 2021 at 12:58 pm

Professor is harassed and driven out of a job for showing someone in a movie who isn’t black.

Leader of Canada and governor of Virginia keep their job after it is found out they dressed in blackface.

Makes perfect sense.

I’ll see your Othello(fictional) and raise you Anne Boyln(real)

Actors used to take pride in the fact that they could take on the role of anyone — a man, a woman, any race, a hunchback, a cripple, whatever.

Now, the PC police come after any actor who plays or even does voiceover for someone who’s not his own race. I can see the time coming when only an actual Prince of Denmark is allowed to play Hamlet.

    alaskabob in reply to OldProf2. | October 10, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    Since Shakespeare didn’t write this for a black actor….Olivier made this a classic transference to provide edge to the play. Name one “black” actor of any period that can beat him at this! If Hamilton can be white, Olivier can certainly be black. As for the student… go play in your Maoist playpen and leave the world to adults.

Imagine these students surviving in the real world some day. Oh yah. Music majors. They will forever be cared for by unions and they will always work for educational or charitable organizations that do not require real world decisions like how are we going to make a profit?

And then there is the University of Michigan which sits on the largest endowment of any public university and one of the top ten in value among all universities. They pay a Dean of Diversity over $600,000 and he has a staff of 20. They have to pretend like they are doing something and Professor Sheng is just the latest target

    Colonel Travis in reply to DanJ1. | October 10, 2021 at 3:38 pm

    The problem is that the real world is being populated by these kinds of idiots more and more every year. “Just wait until they get a real job!” Uh huh. Name a major corporation today that isn’t run by woke morons.

    Unless this BS is stopped, reality will be so full of fakery that everyone with common sense will be ostracized out.

    The reality is that the participation trophy generation is starting to control things. That’s not good.

      NavyMustang in reply to Colonel Travis. | October 11, 2021 at 8:47 am

      This X 1000!

      daniel_ream in reply to Colonel Travis. | October 21, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      Repeal the 19th and this shit stops overnight.

      Woke posturing is just high school mean girls behaviour writ large. The intersectional rules keep changing because they have to: you can’t look down on the girls wearing last year’s hemlines if the hemlines don’t change every season.

      The only men engaged in this woke bollocks are predators lying to try and bed the mean girls, and politicians who have figured out that they can get and stay elected by pandering to it.

      Corporations are run by woke morons because their HR departments are stuffed full of woke Karens in power skirts because the corporations have to comply with stifling diversity, equity, and “hostile environment” laws passed by legislators elected by high school mean girls.

Diversity [dogma] (i.e. color judgment), inequity, and exclusion.

#NoJudment #NoLabels

I’m just waiting for Milley to fire his white special warfare personnel for donning black camouflage during a night-op.

    ronk in reply to JDmyrm. | October 11, 2021 at 1:53 am

    the air force a decade or two ago trimmed it’s ranks of senior enlisted and officers, they had two criteria they were white and men

I guess I know what I’ll be watching tonight.

Thanks for the rec!

    OldProf2 in reply to alohahola. | October 10, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    Great idea! I just ordered the DVD from Netflix. I just noticed that Olivier got his seventh Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Othello.

    Remember that the woke Red Guards have also banned the first two movies where Black people won Oscars: Song of the South (James Baskett) and Gone with the Wind (Hattie McDaniel). They have no respect for greatness, just political correctness.

      Phillygirl1807 in reply to OldProf2. | October 11, 2021 at 11:08 am

      Ridiculous and mean. It’s ok for black actors to play white men and women (as in “Hamilton”), but white actors can’t play black men and women. For many
      years, we have been subscribers to Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre. We’ve enjoyed productions with diverse casts. Now we wonder if white actually will ever be employed there again.

        daniel_ream in reply to Phillygirl1807. | October 21, 2021 at 12:45 pm

        Yes, but there’s no history of black actors putting on peach-coloured pancake makeup and behaving in an exaggerated, mocking caricature of white people. Except the Wayans brothers in White Chicks, but you know what I mean. It’s not as simple as reciprocity.

        The swastika has long been a symbol of prosperity and divine fortune in Asian cultures, but wearing one is not going to get you a positive reaction.

Translation: pseudo intellectual students go looking for a professor’s scalp for shits and giggles, university administration falls for it.

Let’s look at who is the real decision-maker. It should not be the student mob who lacks appreciation of either Shakespeare or Laurence Olivier. (So much of what Shakespeare teaches us about humanity and the human condition is 180 degrees away from Wokeness.)

If this was a law class and the Dean of the Law School were making the call, I think that the result would be to support the Professor. Here, the Dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance may be unequipped to navigate such a situation. Although relieving the Professor was ultimately the Dean’s decision, it is not clear what role the Office of of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX played.

In a proper university, a meeting could be arranged between the complaining student and the Professor, and a mediator could explore why the student was offended by the movie and what the student observed and learned from Olivier’s performance beyond the black face. If the student decided to press a Title IX harassment complaint, then the answer should have been, “The showing of one film does not constitute harassment so severe and pervasive as to deprive the student of the benefit of his University of Michigan education.”

The problem is the randomness of the mob here. There are no rules and no clear line to be crossed (such as using the N-word.)

I hope that Prof. Sheng contacts FIRE and that they sue the University of Michigan. I also hope that the AAUP blacklists the school.

It is U of M, the most wack jab college in the world. Go Blow!

We have now reached the point where the Dhimmi-crats’ infantile, vindictive and obnoxiously totalitarian antics and attitudes read like something straight out of Huxley and Orwell. Their fiction now becomes dystopian reality, courtesy of the vile and evil Dhimmi-crats.

So Olivia Cook (read “Kook”) was able to have a literature professor tossed from his Shakespeare seminar because she is an ignorant little twit who believed everything the college’s Diversity Commissar told her.

If it were not apparent that higher ed in the West is lost, is completely morally and ethically bankrupt, this might be more cause for concern, but it’s just another day on a typical college campus.

In former years, if some little twit got bugged because she watched Olivier’s Othello, I might suggest the course require English history through the Elizabethan period as a prerequisite. There she might learn that Moors, Africans, or black-skinned people in general were extremely rare in England, requiring the sin of grease-painting an actor to appear black.

The horror.

Poor little snow flakes. Do any of them know where Laurence Olivier got the “Sir” in front of his name??

“University”? Sounds more like a kindergarten to me.

Michigan is a state school. This garbage will end only when (i) the school is sued by professors for a civil rights violations and taxpayers realize that they are being soaked to pay damages, (ii) when individual administrators are sued and are denied qualified immunity because what they did to this professor was something that any government official should have realized was a violation of his civil rights and (iii) students who precipitate this nonsense are also held liable as conspirators. (That these students may find that they may be unemployable by normal commercial enterprises probably does not bother them; there are plenty of commercial firms too scared to reject candidates for simply being idiots or snowflakes and there are plenty bloated academic and government programs happy to give activists a share of the dole.