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An otherwise highly respected Chinese-American professor of music composition who survived China’s Cultural Revolution has become the latest victim of America’s “woke,” left-wing mobs.
University of Michigan Prof. Bright Sheng has been pushed out of his teaching role and placed under investigation for the supposed crime of offending his “woke” students by playing for them the classic 1965 British film “Othello” and then not being remorseful enough about it.
Based on William Shakespeare’s identically titled play, the award-winning film featured legendary actor Laurence Olivier, a white man, using blackface to play the character Othello.
Headline-Renowned University of Michigan professor who has taught at the school since 1995 is removed from his post after woke freshman complains about him showing Oscar-nominated acting legend Laurence Olivier in blackface in 1965 film Othello. pic.twitter.com/pLcH9jvkdg
— Ron Milner (@RonMilnerBoodle) October 9, 2021
According to the university’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, on Sept. 10th the professor played the film for an undergraduate composition class specifically “focused on analyzing Shakespeare’s works.”
As the film played, Sheng’s students realized that Olivier was wearing blackface and apparently suffered some sort of mental breakdown.
“I was stunned. In such a school that preaches diversity and making sure that they understand the history of POC (people of color) in America, I was shocked that (Sheng) would show something like this in something that’s supposed to be a safe space,” one student, a white girl named Olivia Cook, later told The Daily.
Sheng, a highly respected composer with a flurry of honors under his name, responded immediately after class with a quick apology email in which he reportedly admitted that the film “was racially insensitive and outdated.”
Five days later, Department of Composition chair Prof. Evan Chambers issued a department-wide email accusing Sheng of violating the school’s “commitment to anti-racist action, diversity, equity and inclusion” and announcing that he’d reported the incident to the school’s Orwellian Office of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX.
The following day, Sheng responded with an official, formal apology. Like the first time around, he acknowledged his mistake. However, Sheng, a survivor of one of the most repressive regimes in world history, also offered a little defense of himself.
According to The Daily, he pointed out the numerous past occasions in which he’s worked with minorities and vowed that he’d “never thought [of himself as] being discriminating against any race.”
This reportedly enraged the mob.
“He could have taken responsibility for his actions and realized that this was harmful to some of his students that are within his class. Instead, he tried to make excuses. Instead of just apologizing for it, he tried to downplay the fact that the entire situation happened in the first place,” Cook told the student newspaper.
Meanwhile, a small army of students, including 15 from the department’s graduate program, reportedly penned an open letter demanding Sheng be removed from teaching undergraduate composition.
“Professor Sheng responded to these events by crafting an inflammatory ‘apology’ letter to the department’s students in which he chose to defend himself by listing all of the BIPOC individuals who he has helped or befriended throughout his career. The letter implies that it is thanks to him that many of them have achieved success in their careers,” the letter reads.
In a statement to The Daily, Sheng made it clear that this hadn’t been his intent — not that intent has ever mattered to the “woke” mob.
“In my formal apology letter to the whole composition department … I simply try to say that I do not discriminate. In retrospect, perhaps I should have apologized for my mistake only,” he said.
He eventually voluntarily stepped down from teaching the class, though he’s still reportedly “teaching students in his studio, serving other departmental and school-wide duties and working on research projects,” according to The Daily.
The mob remains unsatisfied, with one graduate student telling The Daily that is “the bare minimum” and more is needed.
And indeed, the student mob’s not alone in feeling this way. According to reports, Sheng’s own colleagues have been gunning for him as well:
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
The irony is that all this bad behavior from both Sheng’s students and his colleagues has begun boomeranging back to them as the public has become increasingly aware of what transpired and is now expressing THEIR outrage.
Except that their outrage isn’t aimed at Sheng, a world-renowned composer, but rather at the “petulant” mob that’s been trying to ruin his life because he’d accidentally offended them.
Here’s a small sample of the outrage:
We know that white actors may no longer play Othello, but to hear that a university screening Laurence Olivier’s 1965 film of that play constitutes a ‘safe space’ violation is absurd. Is Orson Welles’ film to be lost, too? Solidarity with Prof. Bright Sheng, and shame on @UMich. https://t.co/b9n6dKlZSk
— Adrian Hilton (@Adrian_Hilton) October 9, 2021
I think of an old phrase: “makes me wanna holla.” I wish Bright Sheng, a leading composer whom the University of Michigan is lucky to have, could tell the university to go to hell. https://t.co/HYZamfoGuB
— Jay Nordlinger (@jaynordlinger) October 7, 2021
Flipping out about showing Olivier’s Othello to college students is the kind of thing that can only happen in an affluent and unserious country.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 8, 2021
FYI, Tom Nichols is about as left-wing as a man can be, yet even he sees the writing on the wall.
The outrage has been so intense that one member of the mob reportedly deleted their Twitter account:
The @UMich/@umichsmtd student journalist who tried to parlay a petty personal grievance against #composer Bright Sheng into a campaign to have him sacked after showing Olivier as Othello in a class has deleted his account. TBH, it’s his most sensible action so far. . . .
— japecake (@japecake) October 8, 2021
Pro tip: Don’t partake in mob behavior unless you can handle the heat …
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