A University of Michigan music teacher faces a backlash after showing the 1965 film “Othello” with star Laurence Olivier in blackface, a school official said.
David Gier, dean of the School of Music, Theater & Dance, said a new teacher would take over the course previously taught by Bright Sheng to “enable a positive learning environment,” reports The American Spectator.
“Professor Sheng’s actions do not match our school’s commitment to anti-racism action, diversity, equity and inclusion,” Gier said last week, adding that Sheng had been reported to the Bureau. equity, civil rights and Title IX.
Sheng, an accomplished teacher, composer and conductor, teaches composition in college.
Students who saw the film were upset that Olivier’s face was covered in black makeup as he portrayed Shakespeare’s Othello. One of Sheng’s students, Olivia Cook, told the Michigan Daily that she was “stunned.”
“In such a school that preaches diversity and makes sure they understand the history of POC in America, I was shocked that [Sheng] would show something like that in something that’s supposed to be a safe space, ”Cook said.
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After showing the film, Sheng apologized to his students the same day, calling the film “racially callous and outdated.”
After addressing his students, he presented another excuse to the department.
“I am a teacher representing the university and I should have thought about it more diligently and thoroughly,” Sheng said. “I apologize that this action was offensive and made you angry. It also made me lose your trust.”
In his apology, the Chinese-born professor listed the number of African Americans he has worked with in the past, which has also been criticized by students. They believed that Sheng was only looking to defend himself, eliminating the number of black individuals he helped throughout his career.
“I feel like there is still a lack of confidence there because neither of us thinks they are really sorry,” said an anonymous graduate student. They saw his remorse as “the bare minimum.”
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Sheng then emailed The Daily with his initial apologies.
“I’m just trying to say I don’t discriminate,” he wrote. “Looking back, maybe I should have apologized for my mistake alone.”
The 1965 film came out at the height of the civil rights movement and only aired in theaters for two days.