A British music conductor was fired from his job after being labelled a racist because he used a Southern accent while joking with a black friend.
Matthew Halls, who was working as the artistic director at Oregon Bach Festival, run by the University of Oregon, was removed from the position after a white woman overheard him joke with his black friend Reginald Mobley, and reported him, the Telegraph reported.
Mobley has come out publicly in defense of his friend as he told the Telegraph there was nothing “racist” about the joke.
“He has been victimized and I’m very upset about it,” he told the Telegraph of the quip that was made in July. ”It was an innocent joke that has been entirely taken out of context.”
Halls and Mobley were talking about a concert Mobley performed in recently in. Mobley, who was born and raised in the South, said the concert presented a rose-tinted view of the pre-Civil War South.
— Hazard Chase Ltd. (@hazardchaseltd) July 15, 2017
Halls “apologised on behalf of England”, and then did a Southern accent and asked Mobley “Do you want some grits?”
Mobley said this was something the two friends did with each other often.
“I’m from the deep south and Matthew often makes fun of the southern accent just as I often make fun of his British accent,” he said. “Race was not an issue. He was imitating a southern accent, not putting on a black accent, and there was nothing racist or malicious about it.”
But in the current Age of the Snowflake, joking with a friend while being overheard by a white liberal can get you fired.
Mobley is angry because the school investigated the incident, but didn’t ask for his testimony. Rather, it assumed he would be offended by the joke.
— Seattle Symphony (@seattlesymphony) February 1, 2017
“I’m the subject of a falsified story, without having the chance to have my say,” Mobley told the Telegraph. “My voice has been taken away in a conversation about race that involved me, and technically that’s racist.”
“Matthew is obviously upset, and part of his anger would have to come from the fact he’s been accused of saying something so insensitive to a close friend,” he said.
The Telegraph reported that pressure is mounting on the festival to hire Halls back, as other musicians are speaking out to support him.
I want to offer my public support for Matthew Halls, a true gentleman and professional. Judging by Reginald… https://t.co/HmbYepwueg
— Gabriela Montero (@monterogabriela) September 10, 2017
Mobley said that many white people who want to help are actually doing more damage.
“A lot of our allies have become so eager to help the race and fix the scars they almost go too far,” he said. “They think they are at the point where they understand racism more than those who have really encountered it in their lives and they make assumptions on our behalf about how we might feel, as if we don’t understand when something said to us or done to use is racist.
“It’s well meaning, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions.
“It also demeans and cheapens the very serious work done by civil rights activists and abolitionists to have the difficult nuances of racism and microaggressions taken seriously.”
The Festival responded in a statement “many factors” contributed to its decision.
“Regarding Reggie Mobley, it doesn’t appear he was involved in the University’s decision. Having said that, it would be inappropriate for the University to disclose details about a personnel matter,” it said.
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