“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.
CORRECTION: Sheng has stepped down from teaching one course.
— The Michigan Daily (@michigandaily) October 6, 2021
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.
One colleague has accused Sheng of “pedagogical racism and abuse”—and she has alerted the MacArthur Foundation and Pulitzer Committee about his behavior. Imagine having a colleague like that. https://t.co/k8wR3wPT8M
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) October 7, 2021
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.
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