These two recent stories puzzle me. There are some aspects of civil conduct and societal norms that every cognitively functioning human being who lives in this society and culture cannot possibly have failed to notice. Nonetheless, these events keep happening. Quite part from the specifics of the incidents, they represent a failure of basic life competence.
1. California: Another Teacher Uses Blackface
I have, much to my sorrow—it was one reason Ethics Alarms is censored on Facebook—defended the use of dark make-up when its objective is not to denigrate and mock a race, but to play a dramatic role in a context where such make-up is necessary. White actors should be able to play the Moor Othello. In a saner society, white kids should also be able to dress up as Barack Obama or Beyoncé for Halloween, but interpreting any use of dark make-up as a deliberate reference to minstrel show “blackface” is now part of the victim lobby’s power tool kit, and one has to be aware of and understand the risks of bucking a treasured narrative.
How could any teacher not know, following the travails of Governor Northam in Virginia and Justin Trudeau in Canada, about this cultural landmine? If these elected officials, among others, were threatened by the cancellation culture for having used black makeup as students years ago, wouldn’t it be screamingly obvious that using blackface today, before a classroom, would be professional hari-kari? (Oops! Cultural appropriation there!)
Yet a white high school teacher in Milpitas, California wore blackface in his class on Halloween to do an imitation of the rapper Common. Of course one of the students made a viseo, of course it came to the school board’s attention, of course it created an irresistible opportunity for members to grandstand and engage in virtue-signalling, and of course such opportunities must not be wasted.
Thus Chris Norwood, the president of the school board in solemnly intoned that the behavior was “inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive” and called for an investigation, adding,
“As an African-American man, the history of blackface reminds me of the cruelty, hatred and fear my parents and people of African ancestry have dealt with in the past and still experience today around the world. Unfortunately, blackface still permeates global society today through social media, comedy and fashion.”
(It’s a bit hysterical to say blackface permeates social media, comedy and fashion. I also think the head of a school boards should observe the rules of grammar: the history of blackface is not an African American man.)
But never mind; the point is that such a teacher must be oblivious to the world around him to not only step on this particular career-destroying device but stomp on it. he’s a fool. Fools should not be teachers.
Now, I was going to introduce the second story with “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” That seems safe: it was the title of a hit for Bachman-Turner overdrive in 1974, and the ttle of a 2012 film. Then I checked: the line “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” was made famous as a catch phrase by…Al Jolson, the famous performer most associated with blackface!
Oooh, close call!
2. The Naperville Bufallo Wings Incident
This is KABOOM! worthy.
In a Naperville, Illinois, in suburban Chicago, a large group including African-Americans went to a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant for a celebration. A host asked the group to move to another table, saying that a regular customer and his companion objected to having to sit close to them. The group says that they were told that the reason for the customer’s request was the color of their skin. [NOTICE OF CORRECTION: Apparently this was not clear in my original post.] After the group refused to move, they heard the host and the restaurant’s manager commiserating with the customer. Then they left, and a representative alerted the news media.
Said the Wall Street Journal, in one of the great understatements of the year, that Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. “plans to speed up sensitivity training.” Ya think? By the way, BWW, it’s far too late for that. The company fired the host and the manager, and banned the regular customer from the store for life. But where had these three mutants been for the last, oh, sixty years? How could anyone think this kind of openly racist behavior is appropriate, and likely to pass without objection and serious consequences?
Who are these people? WHAT are these people?
[Note: No, this was not a “hate crime.” Acting like a racist jerk, and facilitating racist jerks with mere words. don’t break any laws.]