Ethics Heroes Of The Great Stupid: University Of Texas Alumni Donors

Back in October of last year, this Ethics Warm-up related the truly ridiculous story of how the University of Texas’s school song, and a beloved Texas folk song as well, was being called “racist,” and some of the schools football players were calling for it to be “cancelled.” University President Jay Hartzell reacted with Authentic Frontier Gibberish: who knows what he was saying? He outlined steps UT would take to “recruit, attract, retain and support Black students,” while his statement said that he preferred to “acknowledge and teach about all aspects of the origins of ‘The Eyes of Texas’ as we continue to sing it moving forward with a redefined vision that unites our community.” What he should have said was that there is nothing whatsoever racist about the song, and his university was not going to be bullied and race-baited into changing revered school traditions just so social justice warriors and woke mobs can add another notch to their metaphorical belts.

You see, the claim that the song has “racist undertones” is simply false. You will search for them in the lyrics fruitlessly:

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“Predator,” “White Christmas” And “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”: Among Other Benefits, Freedom Of Expression Is Just A Lot Easier Than Creating And Enforcing Taboos


We were watching “Predator” over the weekend, and saw Arnold Schwarzenegger color his skin black—using mud—to escape the deadly alien’s heat-based vision. Now, why doesn’t this qualify as blackface, thus threatening Arnold with “cancellation” and the film, an action classic, with permanent shelving? Don’t tell me it’s because there is a good reason for Arnold, who is as white as you can get, darkening his skin. We have been told that intentions don’t matter when it comes to this crime against racial justice. Fred Astaire wearing dark make-up to honor his black tap teachers in “Top Hat” is per se racist. Wearing black make-up to portray a black historical character in a private Halloween party is racist. Lawrence Olivier wearing dark make-up to play Othello is racist. Robert Downey, Jr. wearing dark make-up to satirize actors who go to excess to get in character for their roles is racist. Where is the “Exception for someone trying to avoid being killed by a hunter from outer space” written down?

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The Zoe Saldana-Nina Simone Controversy

I have been following this story for some time with a mixture of amusement and horror; satisfaction too, I suppose, as it is nice to see that black grievance-mongers are equally irrational when the imagined offender is black rather than white. There is integrity in this, after the irrationality of it all.

Nina Simone’s tribute website calls her a “classically trained pianist who evolved into a chart-topping chanteuse and committed civil rights activist.” As a white kid growing up in the Sixties, I missed Simone almost entirely: she wasn’t a regular guest on TV variety shows.  In college, I encountered aficionados who referred to her as brilliant, and I tried to appreciate her song stylings. She was one of those singers that  I could understand why she was famous and exceptional without wanting to listen to her for pleasure. At the time I regarded Simone as a cult singer, but that was unfair; she was obviously more important than that. I was also unaware of her considerable significance in the civil rights

Three years ago, Zoe Saldana was cast as Nina Simone in “Nina”, a major Hollywood film about the singer’s life, replacing singer Mary J. Blige, who was originally cast but dropped out. Immediately, the choice of Saldana, a rising black actress of Dominican and Puerto Rican parents best known for her work as Uhura on the “Star Trek” reboots, “Avatar,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”, was attacked. She wasn’t a singer, isn’t a “true” African-American and doesn’t resemble Simone sufficiently, the critics said.

All of these accusations are ridiculous on their face. Most biopics about famous singers, though not all, star actors rather than vocalists: all singing is dubbed in after the film anyway. When, in the history of drama, has there been a rule that the performer’s ethnicity had to match the role he or she was playing? I wrote about the foolishness of this issue most recently here. What matters isn’t that Yul Brenner wasn’t really a Thai, what matters is that he was fantastic at playing the King of Siam. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Anti-Washington Redskins Activist’s Bob Marley Costume

The Native American in the middle is dressed as a famous Jamaican. Would it have been offensive if he dressed as Sitting Bull?

The Native American in the middle is dressed as a famous Jamaican. Would it have been offensive if he dressed as Sitting Bull?

Terry Rambler, chief of the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona, has  been at the forefront of the effort to force The Washington Redskins, a privately owned NFL sports franchise, to change its name and logo of long-standing because both are allegedly racist. [ As I have made clear many times, the team’s name is not racist, as neither its origins nor current use suggest or imply racist intent, purpose or impact, and the team’s owner has a First Amendment right to call his team whatever he wants. The decades long political correctness stunt has gained more traction under the Obama administration, because the Obama Administration and Senate Democrats do not respect the Constitution or follow it when it gets in the way of its agenda. (See: drones, Obamacare, immigration, NSA domestic spying, harassment of reporters, IRS partisan activities, recess appointments, Libya bombing, selective prosecution,  putting government pressure on the Redskins to change its name, etc )

But I digress.

This year, Rambler’s Halloween costume was Jamaican musician Bob Marley, complete with dreadlocks, wig, and rasta beanie. He also wore appropriate make-up to look like Marley.

Here is what the chief looks like most days:


Here he is on Halloween as the Reggae icon…

Halloween Marley

The costume is making  Rambler the target of criticism from both sides of the controversy: Redskins defenders who view his make-up as “blackface” and thus hypocritical, and his own Team Political Correctness, which sees Rambler as engaging in the same kind of insensitive conduct they claim the Washington Redskins embody.

To make things worse for Rambler, there was another recent Bob Marley controversy in  Gaston County, (North Carolina), where a sheriff’s captain  apologized  for wearing dark make-up as part of her own Marley Halloween costume after her in-costume photo appeared online.

And thus your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Was the Native American activist’s Bob Marley make-up unethical or hypocritical?

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Comment of the Day #1: Ethics Quiz: The Looney Tunes Cartoon Disclaimer


The Looney Tunes post was the latest in along line of those that I never anticipated provoking the rich discussions that they have, and this fascinating post by SamePenn really took off into an unexpected direction—ragtime and racist songs—that is  still relevant to the post. Just read, enjoy, ponder and learn; I did.

Here is SamePenn’s Comment of the Day, and there’s a second COTD coming,  on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Looney Tunes Cartoon Disclaimer: Continue reading

Othello Ethics: When Political Correctness Is Unethical

OtelloposterI don’t know how I missed the fact that opera producers and directors had stopped playing Shakespeare’s Othello in Verdi’s “Otello” as a black man, but I’m glad I did for this long—it allowed me a few more fleeting days of ignorant happiness without dreading the collapse of civilization as we know it. Apparently, however, that is the trend, and now the Metropolitan Opera is caving to the nonsense as well.

It makes perfect sense that most theater companies stopped using dark makeup on light actors for their “Othellos”, because there is seldom a valid reason to cast a white actor in the role: there are plenty of African Americans up to the task. Now, if a great white actor should want to play the role as a black man—like Laurence Olivier did in the 1960s—why not? Judith Anderson played Hamlet (“Hamlet lost” announced one critic); this is why it’s called “acting.” Still, I appreciate the position that the one black tragic hero in Shakespeare’s canon should not be casually distributed to an actor who can easily be cast in any of the other great roles, while black actors have far too few opportunities to star in the classics.

Opera, however, poses a different problem: Otello is a prime tenor role and there are not great black tenors in abundance. Moreover, it is one of the great tenor role: if you are a great tenor, it doesn’t matter if you are green—people want to hear you sing the role. Thus the Met’s new production of Verdi’s “Otello” that will open its season next month will star a white tenor, but not in black makeup. Continue reading

No, NPR, The Ice Cream Truck Isn’t “Racist,” But I Know Why You Want Us To Think So

ice cream truck

“Racism! Come and get your delicious racism!”

I will not be surprised to see a formal course of study emerge in the near future in our institutions of higher learning, teaching the skills necessary to become a certified race-grievance manufacturer. One would be trained in such classes as Advanced Race-baiting, Historical Distortions, The Uses of Paranoia, and The  Permanent Victim Mindset, and a typical honors thesis would be exactly like the essay featured on NPR’s website, by Theodore Johnson III, but with footnotes. Come to think of it, maybe that’s where Johnson’s article did come from. If so, I’m sure he got an A.

And, as was the objective, other race-baiting lackeys, like RYOT’s Viola Knowles, picked up the baton by taking Johnson’s thesis to the next level, with her opus, “So It Turns Out Your Beloved Ice Cream Truck Is Actually Super Racist.” Like its origin, the piece is a lesson in confirmation bias and intellectually dishonest research. Also like the NPR piece—and tell me again why my tax dollars support an institution that encourages racial distrust—it is sinister in intent. “If you’d rather I not crush all of your beautiful childhood memories with ugly racism then you may want to leave now,” she begins ominously. For NPR has discovered that the jingle traditionally played by the friendly neighborhood ice cream truck—“or the racist truck,” she says, is “one of the most racist songs in America.”

Here, in brief is Johnson’s thesis— Continue reading

The Fojol Bros., Innocent of Racism, Political Correctness Victims

In its advanced stages, 21st century political correctness becomes a kind of delusional illness, causing sufferers to interpret  benign, harmless and even socially healthy conduct as offensive and sinister. An outbreak of this variety of political correctness is in full flower in Washington, D.C., where more than the usual number of officious defenders of that which needs no defending are trying to gin up public outrage against a creative, fun, and successful small business enterprise, Fojol Bros.

The company sends food trucks around downtown D.C. and serves strangely named hybrid ethnic dishes inspired by Indian, Ethiopian and Thai cuisines. The Fojol employees who hand out the delicious fare wear turbans, robes and fake mustaches,  claim to hail from  “Merlindia” and “Benethiopia,” and go by names like “Kipoto.” This was once called “theater” and “fantasy,” no more offensive than Disney employees in Frontierland dressing in cowboy and saloon girl garb and calling themselves “Tex” and “Lilly.” Now some are calling it “offensive,” because too many people have forgotten what offensive is. Continue reading

Halloween Ethics! Facebook Ethics! Political Ethics! Blackface Ethics! It’s Tennessee’s Aunt Jemima Affair, the Ethics Controversy That Has Everything!

It’s just after Halloween, and followers of the ethics wars know what that means: somewhere, somebody is in trouble for their choice of costume.

Actually, in this case it’s someone in trouble for her choice of someone in costume to pose with: Tennessee Republican state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver posted a picture on the Internet of her standing with her pastor, who had dressed up as Aunt Jemima—of syrup fame and black stereotype infamy— for some Halloween festivities. Her caption to the photo:

“Aunt Jemima, you is so sweet.”

Weaver has apologized, swearing that when she posed for the picture with her pastor, she did not know the photo would upset anybody. “It was fun, done in innocence. My friend is dressed up as syrup. He wife was going to be a pancake,” said Weaver. “I never intended to offend anyone. I took the picture off my Facebook. I apologize if it ever meant to offend anyone.”  Weaver,who apparently has lived in a cave since 1957,  also said she was not aware that Aunt Jemima represented black stereotypes to many people, and was unaware that wearing blackface was also considered offensive to the vast majority of Americans. Yes, she really did. (Note: I know Aunt Jemima as a brand of pancake mix; I did not think the logo  gracee any syrup containers. I assumed Weaver confused confused the good Aunt with her white rival. Mrs. Butterworth, who is a syrup brand. Aunt Jemima obviously hangs out with pancakes, so the pastor’s wife was on firm ground, no matter what. But thanks to a syrup-minded reader, I have been set straight: there is Aunt Jemima syrup, too)

State Sen. Thelma Harper, an African-American, said she and members of the Black Caucus want to put Harper before the House Ethics Committee.“This is what we have had to live with, making a mockery of being black and copying the language that Aunt Jemima used,” said Harper.

This controversy has everything! Halloween ethics! Blackface ethics! Facebook ethics! Political ethics! Syrup ethics!

Let’s go through them, shall we? Continue reading