A music professor at the University of Michigan has faced a backlash after showing 155 movie “Othello” star Lawrence Olivier on Blackface, a school official has announced.
David Gear, dean of the School of Music, Theater and Dance, said a new professor would take charge of classes previously taught by Bright Sheng “to allow for a positive learning environment”.
“Professor Sheng’s actions are not in line with our school’s commitment to anti-apartheid measures, diversity, equality and inclusion,” Gear said last week, as Sheng reported to the Office of Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX.
Sheng, a skilled professor, composer and conductor, taught composition in college.
Students were annoyed when Olivia’s face was covered in black make-up as Shakespeare’s Othello. Olivia Cook, a student at Sheng, told the Michigan Daily that she was “stunned.”
“At a school that promotes diversity and makes sure they understand the history of POC in America, I’m shocked that [Sheng] It will show something that is considered a safe place, ”Cook said.
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After showing the film, Sheng apologized to his students on the same day, calling the film “racially insensitive and outdated.”
After addressing his students, he made another apology to the department.
“I am a teacher representing the university and I should have thought more diligently and fundamentally about this,” Sheng said. “I apologize that the move was offensive and offended you. It made me lose your faith.”
In his apology, the professor of Chinese descent listed the number of times he has worked with African Americans in the past, which was also criticized by students. They felt that Sheng only wanted to defend himself, omitting the names of black people he had helped throughout his career.
An anonymous graduate student said, “I think there’s still a lack of confidence because none of us think he’s really sorry.” They perceived his remorse as “minimal”.
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Sheng later emailed the daily remorse for his initial apology.
“I just try to say I don’t discriminate,” he wrote. “In hindsight, I probably should have apologized for my mistake.”
The 155 film was released at the height of the civil rights movement and was shown in theaters for only two days.