It must be frightfully awful to go through life afraid of everything. Triggered by every innocuous event, joke, or passing reference.
Even a 40-year-old skit from Saturday Night Live isn’t safe enough to watch.
That’s how students at Reed College in Portland are reacting after students watched Steve Martin’s famous “King Tut” skit in class.
The entire point of the skit is to mock the crass commercialization of the then-wildly popular “Treasures of Tutankhamun” traveling exhibit that was sweeping the nation. Martin opened with a comment about the commercialization, then performed a hilarious and mocking song that was as crass as possible.
But even mocking commercialization is too much for some students. Students are calling Steve Martin’s “appropriation” of ancient Egyptian culture a form of “blackface.” Here it is:
The short skit was played at a humanities class to start a discussion over “cultural appropriation,” the Washington Examiner reports. But it was apparently so vile and offensive, students demanded never to see it again and to be given alternate coursework.
One member of Reedies Against Racism told the Atlantic the song is “like somebody … making a song just littered with the N-word everywhere.” She went on to say that the Egyptian clothing that the backup dancers wear is racist as well. “The gold face of the saxophone dancer leaving its tomb is an exhibition of blackface,” she said.
Amazingly, in their list of demands, they want the college to give staff a paid day off so they can protest their own school.
It’s gotten so bad that even the liberal faculty can’t take any more. English professor Lucía Martínez Valdivia, who describes herself as a “gay, mixed-race woman,” said she is afraid for her safety when she talks about sensitive subject matter in her classes.
“Some colleagues, including people of color, immigrants and those without tenure, found it impossible to work under these conditions. The signs intimidated faculty into silence, just as intended,” she wrote.
She practically begs her fellow faculty to stand up in the face of this fascist movement.
At Reed and nationwide, we have largely stayed silent, probably hoping that this extremist moment in campus politics eventually peters out. But it is wishful thinking to imagine that the conversation will change on its own. It certainly won’t change if more voices representing more positions aren’t added to it.
We will see what comes of the plea from a terrified and exasperated academic. Will they heed her call? What do you think?