…by adding yet another reason for my absence. Harvard is practicing straight-up segregation. It really is. But it’s OK, see, because only non-black people are being discriminated against. This is the quality of reasoning at Harvard in the 21st Century.
“Macbeth in Stride” is currently being performed by the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University’s Loeb Drama Center, near Harvard Square. This adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy includes modern music and a version of Lady Macbeth as an “ambitious black woman” to elevate “black female power, femininity, and desire.” <YAWN!> When I see Orson Welles in Hell, remind me to thank him for inflicting on the culture an endless parade of Shakespeare updates with lazy and facile political metaphors, all executed by adapters and directors less talented than he was.
But I digress. For the reason I will have to add to my report of protest is this: Harvard’s major theater on campus has decided that we white folk aren’t welcome to one performance. From the show’s webpage,
“We have designated this performance to be an exclusive space for Black-identifying audience members. For our non-Black allies, we appreciate your support in making this a completely Black-identifying evening. We invite you to join us at another performance during the run.“
The production is under the auspices of Harvard’s theater department, and the race-segregated performance is on campus, in a university building and held under the college’s banner. This astounding example of direct racial bias must have been approved by Harvard itself.
Writes the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which could have used this as a hypothetical example of why it serves a crucial purpose, except that everyone would have pronounced it too unbelievable:
[F]or Harvard to designate a performance as available only to students, faculty, or other patrons of a specified skin color appears to run afoul not only of state and federal laws, but also Harvard’s own commitment to fostering an inclusive environment for every member of the university community… Under federal law, excluding university students, faculty, and staff from educational enrichment opportunities based on race is forbidden. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids all institutions receiving federal financial assistance, whether public or private, from discriminating “on the ground of race, color, or national origin.” Colleges and universities like Harvard that accept payments from students who receive federal financial aid are covered by Title VI. Massachusetts law also bars discrimination based on race in places of public accommodation, defined as “any place . . . which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public.” This includes performance spaces such as theaters….
“The American Repertory Theater’s decision to restrict a showing of “Macbeth in Stride” only to audience members who identify as members of a certain race or ethnicity is also problematic because it appears to run afoul of the theater company’s own policies, which profess dedication to “making a welcoming and accessible space for people of any identity, background, or ability”
Well, duh. Isn’t that obvious? Why isn’t it obvious to Harvard? This is the “bias makes you stupid” gold standard. Remember the old bit about replying to an obnoxious letter with a response that says, “Hey, I thought I should tell you that someone is sending out stupid letters and signing your name to them!”? Harvard’s “Blackout” performance of “Macbeth in Stride” begs for a similar reaction.
Harvard’s professional theater company can hold a performance where black-identifying members of the university community and the general public are highly encouraged to attend, and where performers craft a message specific to that audience. What Harvard cannot do — according to decades of case law, statutory protections, and its own policies — is treat students or other theatergoers differently because of the color of their skin.
The old joke used to go, “You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much.” Well, nobody needs to tell this “Harvard man” that his alma mater has rendered his degree a badge of shame.