In her letter to the editor (Nov. 7, 2017) regarding the cancellation of the play “The Good Person of Szechwan,” Professor Anderson imagines a slippery slope of censorship wherein white people can’t teach about the experiences non-white people. Indeed, this would be worrisome. But that is not the issue at hand. Rather, as I understand it, students of color are asking white faculty members to be more mindful of course content that reinforces racist stereotypes. Professor Anderson notes that Bertolt Brecht was a German (Jewish) Marxist (presumably, this gives him more license on matters of racism/orientalism) and she concludes stating that:
“At the same time, surely we are brave enough and curious enough to make ourselves uncomfortable.”
Professor Anderson misses the point that people of color in the US are made to be “uncomfortable” most of our lives because this nation was built on and is maintained by the ideology of racism and white supremacy. Thus, the suggestion that racist stereotypes presented by a Marxist is a test of “curiosity” and “bravery” begs the question for whom is this test most likely to benefit? If the actual lives of communities of color are fundamentally brave, then one can only conclude that these projects are actually intended for the consumption of white audiences.
This, I believe, is the crux of the matter—white normativity. US tertiary institutions generally center the needs, values and experiences of white Americans. Since the 1960s, students of color have been saying that business as usual is no longer acceptable. The cancellation of “The Good Person of Szechwan” is an important lesson in the ongoing struggle against white normativity on college campuses. In the words of Nina Simone, “It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. For me. And I’m feeling good.” We, the Knox community, should seize the time. This is an opportunity to turn away from old ways and embrace a new life wherein all experiences are valued equally.