Maybe this kind of thing bothers me more than it bothers most people, but the internal contradictions and racial issues pretzeling in a recent Times puff piece on Marvel’s latest superhero film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” had my brain short-circuiting like one of those computers that Captain Kirk would disable on “Star Trek” by feeding them self-contradictory statements.
Consider these quotes from the article, which was authored by Robert Ito. Apparently diversity means that only Asian American reporters can write about Asian-American super-hero movies. Or do you think it was just a coincidence? Sure it was. But I digress…
“Known property or not, the movie is a cause for celebration: It’s Marvel’s first and only superhero film starring an Asian lead, with an Asian American director and writer, and based on a character who was actually Asian in the original comic.”
Why is any of this true? Why does the race of a comic book character matter at all? Does race make the character of the story more entertaining? To whom, other than racists? Can only Asian directors and writers create such a movie? Does that mean they can’t work on movies about non-Asian superheroes, or just that it’s not desirable to have a white (or black?) director and writer for movies like this one? I’m so confused… Continue reading →
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”
—-ESPN sideline reporter Rachel Nichols in a phone conversation nearly a year ago after learning that she would not host coverage during the 2020 N.B.A. finals, as she had been expecting.
The phone call, unbeknownst to her, was being recorded, and someone leaked it to the ESPN brass and the public. The ethical issues raised by that conduct are clear and have been discussed here often: it is a dastardly thing to do, a breach of basic Golden Rule ethics, and indefensible because it creates harm to all involved. But that’s not the issue at hand.
After the video was leaked, many black ESPN employees told one another that it confirmed their suspicions that outwardly supportive white people talk differently behind closed doors. Nichols, seeing the ominous handwriting on the wall, tried to apologize to Taylor with texts and phone calls. Taylor did not respond. Meanwhile, ESPN employees turned against Nichols, whom they perceived as indulging in a “common criticism used by white workers in many workplaces to disparage nonwhite colleagues” when she suggested that “Taylor was offered the hosting job only because of her race, not because she was the best person for the job.”
Alexander Hamilton died on this date in 1804, in a bizarre episode in U.S. history with profound ethical and political implications. There Aaron Burr fatally shot dead the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and essential political thinker in an illegal duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. It was, of course, unethical to break the law, especially for these two men, who qualified as national leaders. Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801 at the exact same spot (What was Alexander thinking?)
According to Hamilton’s “second,” Hamilton deliberately fired his weapon into the air rather than at Burr, a gentlemanly gesture and also a profoundly stupid one, if Hamilton believed half the things he had said and written about Burr’s character for years. This was why they were dueling, after all. Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed, and the more I’ve thought abut this, the more I’ve come to believe that this is the more likely scenario. Hamilton was anything but naive, reckless or stupid. Yes, he was a crack shot, but anyone can miss. Even if the gesture of “throwing away his shot” as “Hamilton” puts it, would have impressed some adversaries and been seen as a display of mercy and an offer of reconciliation, it made no sense at all with this adversary. Moreover, Hamilton considered Burr a threat to the nation—he was right about that—why wouldn’t he shoot him? Whatever really happened, Burr, who had the second shot, killed Hamilton with a ball that went through his stomach into his spine. Hamilton died the next day.
This ended Burr’s political career: Would killing Burr have ended Hamilton’s? Probably, but Burr was the one who had issued the challenge. Maybe Hamilton would have been excused by the public. Maybe he would have ultimately become President; all the Founders of his magnitude except Ben Franklin did. For good or ill, Alexander Hamilton would have been a strong and probably transformative leader. But if he hadn’t died at Weehawken, it’s unlikely that we would have “Hamilton” the musical….
1. Baseball, hotdogs, and a bystander hero. Dr. Willie Ross, the father of Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross, saved the life of a choking fan midway through yesterday 10-4 Giants win over Washington at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Ross saw that a female spectator was choking, and when Ross came over to her seat to check on her, she couldn’t talk. Ross helped dislodge two pieces of a hot dog by using the Heimlich maneuver, then reached into her throat to take out the third and final piece. The woman, who is a nurse, could breath and speak at last. Ross received a standing ovation from nearby fans.
A study published by the Actors’ Equity Association, the union for both actors and stage managers, revealed that between 2016 and 2019, 76% of stage managers employed on theatrical productions across the country were white. Only 2.63% were Black. Does that mean there is “systemic racism” in the theater world?
Absent a thorough analysis of the path by which individuals enter the field of stage management across the country, there is no justification for concluding that. I assume that the main factors are economic. Theater is an economically impossible pursuit. Those who go into it as a profession are often able to do so because they have financial resources from family or elsewhere that allows them that freedom. African Americans are less likely to have family wealth to support them, and performing has a greater potential for achieving wealth than the behind-the-scenes role of stage manager. As for the performers who, as an actor friend once put it, become actors because they aren’t good at anything else, they are not likely candidates for stage management because stage managers, like any other kind of managers, have to be smart. The theater is, in general, not a profession teeming with smart people. If you are smart, you choose a profession that isn’t financially unsustainable.
To be convinced that the lack of black professional stage managers is caused by racism, I would need to know what the pool of black stage managers is, and whether there are many qualified black stage manager who cannot find jobs. I don’t see that data. If the 2.63% of stage managers who are black represent all or most of the pool, is there a problem? Why? Who cares what color a stage manager is, if the individual knows how to handle the job and does it well?
One issue that the “systemic racism” advocates can’t seem to get their story straight about is the question of how race effects staff and management relations. In a healthy culture, there is no reason why a black stage manager couldn’t successfully oversee a predominantly white cast in a production, or the reverse. However, the racial distrust that the current “antiracism” rhetoric and policies engender almost guarantee conflict in a modern cast where there is racial diversity. Take it from the director of over 200 shows of all sizes and budgets, one thing no production needs is conflict.
Are black stage managers more likely to find racial grievances in a production environment? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the case, but I will say this: I wouldn’t hire any stage manager of any shade who had a reputation for stirring up controversies. Stage managers exist to solve problems, and to make everything run smoothly. A social justice warrior stage manager? Not on my show.
A factor that is probably at work in keeping down the number of black stage managers is the basic and immutable logic of artistic team building. Successful and experienced producers and directors accumulate a group of people over the course of their work that they enjoy working with and who they believe contribute to their success. They will, in new projects, try to work with those same people. There is nothing wrong or unethical about that. But black directors and producers tend to have regular teams that reflect their social and professional circles, and white directors and producers are the same. Is this racism? I would call it “human nature” or “life.” And the more members of your team that you have no prior experience with, the greater the risk to your production. If I’m taking artistic risks, and I do, I want to minimize organizational risks.
What’s the ethical reaction to this story? Angelia Mia Vargas, 24, has been charged with deadly conduct with a firearm after she accidentally shot her 5-year-old son while trying to shoot an over-enthusiastic 6-month-old boxer puppy that got loose from a neighbor and was running through her yard. Neither the dog nor the boy were seriously injured. My reflex reaction, I confess, was, “HA! That should teach this idiot something about gun safety!” and then I instantly regretted it. The child was innocent: what really would have been condign justice was if her shot hit her car’s gas tank and it blew up. Shooting herself in the foot would have been good. “She could have handled it differently,” said Bruno the puppy’s owner. Ya think? Here’s the terrifying beast that Angelia thought justified deadly force:
Should this woman have custody of a child? [Pointer: valkygrrl]
1. The rest of the story….There were a record number of Tulsa Race Massacre demonstrations on Memorial Day, as one might expect with “hate whitey” being the current fad. What was supposed to be the biggest one, in Tulsa of course, was cancelled after three survivors demanded $1 million each to appear. The May 31st Remember & Rise event was also supposed to feature John Legend and Stacey Abrams—boy, if only my sock drawer hadn’t been in such bad shape!– but it was called off because Viola Fletcher, 107, her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100 and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106, increased their appearance fee from $100,000 each to $1 million each. Their lawyers also demanded that a reparations fund be increased from the agreed-upon $2 million to $10 million. What does this tell us about how reparations would turn out if the U.S. were ever so unhinged as to agree to them?
I did learn that the young African-American, Dick Rowland, whose arrest after a white woman accused him of rape (or something) during an encounter in an elevator was the fuse for the violence wasn’t prosecuted. He was released, left Tulsa, and never returned.
I wonder why…
2. Here I go, obsessing about group identity again...In New York, the “Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession” program, sponsored by the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Moynihan Scholarship Fund, will introduce 250 “promising underrepresented high school students” to the accounting profession. The program will include virtual sessions about forensic accounting, interviewing skills, public speaking, networking, and an “accounting profession overview” featuring a panel discussion with experts in the profession. What a great idea! Nine institutions, including Ithaca College, Medgar Evers College, Rochester Institute of Technology, St. John’s University, Siena College, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Oswego, the University at Buffalo, and Westchester Community College co-host the program, which is free of charge for students.
Oh—white students may not apply. The online application for the program includes options for Hispanic, Black, Asian, and Native American students, but no option for white students. When confronted about the apparent discrimination involved, SUNY Oswego Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Scott Furlong huminahumina-ed that “SUNY Oswego participates in supporting the program and sees this as a beneficial service to the profession, but we strongly believe that all disadvantaged students would benefit from the COAP program.While we do not participate in recruiting the student participants in COAP or in the setting of policy for student membership, SUNY Oswego would prefer a more inclusive perspective regarding membership in COAP and the NYSSCPA policy…[which would] “align with SUNY Oswego’s ethos that is rooted in diversity of thought and people, equitable practices and policies, and inclusive experiences.” Furlong said that the matter “merits much future discussion for the purposes of having SUNY Oswego reassess our involvement and reconsider our sponsorship.”
Meanwhile, his institution will continue to participate in a program that discriminates against white students.
The Comment of the Day that follows by David Rohde is welcome for many reasons. First, he is a professional musician, and a skilled one. Second, he defends the author of piece I criticized vociferously (and will continue to). Third, I think this is an important issue. Fourth,, a new voice here is always welcome, and we haven’t been getting as many as I would like of late. Finally,, as required for COTD, it is well written and worthy of considerations and debate.
It may be that using blind auditions has elevated the performance level of symphony orchestras. Or it may be serious overkill in an era of a supply-demand imbalance for classical musical talent. But either way, simply rolling this issue into what I know is this blog’s current obsession with – in other words, against – identity issues misses a lot that’s going on here.
First of all, you have to admit that hiring people without knowing who they are in ANY field is kind of strange. In particular, you certainly wouldn’t use blind auditions to cast people in a show, now would you? I know I know, different genres, different requirements. Roles in theater are individual, while 30 or 40 violinists in a symphony orchestra are doing much the same thing.
But I would argue that live classical music IS showbiz, and the sooner that people in that field realize it, the better. If the product is just “the music,” and many people assert that the overall technical performance level is higher than ever, then why is classical music struggling at all?
Second, I think you have to remember what the main impetus of blind auditions was in the first place. While I’m oversimplifying, the essential problem was (or shortly became) the inability of women to secure places in symphony orchestras. A quick check on YouTube of recent orchestra performances now versus 30 or 40 years ago will demonstrate the resulting change. Part of Tommasini’s argument is not to let solutions to problems become so institutionalized that they run past their sell-by date while different problems fester.
Just what we need: another area of society where progressives are clamoring for illegal discrimination.
Anthony Tommasini, the New York Times senior classical music critic, argues in an essay whose thesis would have been laughed out of the paper just a few years ago—you know, before the dawn of the Great Stupid—that…
“…ensembles must be able to take proactive steps to address the appalling racial imbalance that remains in their ranks. Blind auditions are no longer tenable….now more than ever, the spectacle of a lone Black musician on a huge, packed stage at Lincoln Center is unbearably depressing. Slow and steady change is no longer fast enough.”
Orchestras now have blind auditions, with those seeking employment playing behind a screen. In the epitome of results-based reasoning, Tommasini believes that auditions must allow unscreened auditions so “diversity” can be achieved, and ensembles “reflect the communities they serve.” In other words, quotas. In other words, hiring lesser musicians because they are the “right” color or gender. This, in an institution that has only one goal and aspiration: to play beautiful music as well as possible. The clear meaning of Tommasini’s conclusion is that it is more important that an ensemble be made up of the right kind of people than it be able to serve the function for which it was created. It is better to have a worse orchestra that ticks off the right EEOC boxes than to have one that sounds good.
Oddly, nobody has ever made this argument regarding, say, NBA basketball teams. Hop-hop music groups. Heart surgery teams. In fact, if I had to pick the perfect example of a field in which requiring racial and gender diversity is self-evidently bats, a symphony orchestra might be it.
As I was gagging through the previous post about Mayor Lightfoot’s astounding “defense” of her deliberate discrimination against reporters of not enough color, I realized that Humble Talent’s comment deserves COTD status. One reason is that it made me realize something I never had quite focused on before.
The section of this morning’s warm-up Humble commented upon was the Alexandria Little League’s decision that baseball coaches needed to be indoctrinated into the Church of Woke’s virtue of diversity. Humble’s account of a “social audit” in his workplace revealed that his organization got black marks for not having sufficient numbers of gay—the auditors thought none—members.
I don’t know why this never occurred to me before, but prohibiting organizations and employer from discriminating against LGBTQ people is completely separate from insisting such individuals be represented in some statistically determined level to show diversity. Why? Becasue an organization cannot and should not seek to learn an individual’s sexual identity or proclivities—it’s literally none of their business. The idea that gay Americans have unique views and perspectives that distinguish them from more traditionally sexed individuals is blatant stereotyping, and in my somewhat extensive experience just plain wrong, except perhaps in the narrow field of LGNTQ politics, and maybe not even there.
Is the lesson of HT’s’ social audit that gay applicants for a job must be openly, ostentatiously gay or there will be no “diversity” benefit in hiring them? That makes no sense at all, but it appears that this is what diversity bean-counting requires. If an employee doesn’t set himself apart by acting like “Johnny” (the late Stephen Stucker) in “Airplane!,” he doesn’t help the diversity score.
That was Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “defense” of her action yesterday announcing that she would only do interviews with black and other non-white colored reporters. Once again, I am tempted to leave this letter from Chicago Mayor Lightfoot free of any further commentary from me, since what makes it not just unethical but a stunning demonstration of so many other deficits on her part should be screamingly, stenchingly, head-explodingly obvious. Maybe I should, in my respect for readers here who I assume can recognize the trail of a toxic dolt when they see one, just let what is res ipsa loquitur “speak for itself.” I feel like the Duke, trying to stay calm when provoked in “McClintock!” and reaching the same moment of surrender:
Not surprising, at least to me, the carrier (in multiple senses of the word) is United, long recognized by travelers as an incorrigible ethics dunce. The latest from United, however, announced in a head-exploding tweet, is special. The airline announced,
“Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day. That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color.”
Wait: who says the flight deck crew should reflect the demographics of the passengers? Why would anyone but a fool say that? Is there really any air traveler who cares about any characteristic of the pilot and co-pilot other than that they be the best qualified people available to fly the plane safely and deal with whatever crisis that might occur?
I know I don’t care what color, gender or ethnic group my planes’ pilots belong to. Why would I? Do you? Does any sane traveler think as they hurtle groundward, screaming, “Well, if we crash, at least it will be because the airline met its diversity quota!”
Conservative website PJ Media headlined the revolting development (Pop cultural literacy quiz! This was once a catch phrase: “What a revolting development this is!” What was the TV show, and for extra credit, who was the actor who said the line in every episode?) this way:
“United Airlines Announces They Will No Longer Hire the Best Pilots“