Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last week, the online publication Salon took a break from its usual sophisticated political analysis (“Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American,” the magazine brayed on April 16) to raise a pressing civil rights issue: “Are straight actors in gay roles the new blackface?”
The Scrapbook would have been happy to answer the question—nope!—and be done with it. But Salon was decidedly more thorough. It ran a 1,000-plus-word piece on the topic, suggesting that Michael Douglas’s recent turn as Liberace in the HBO movie Behind the Candelabra should be considered just as offensive as Al Jolson’s blackface routine in 1927’s Jazz Singer.
Regarding movies with gay themes that are populated by straight actors, Salon asks if it is now time to “demand that gay artists tell these stories instead.” But why? Citing some well-known performances of gay parts by straight actors (Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, for example), the author laments that they “capture the looks, sounds and movements of their gay characters, but barely seem to scratch the surface of the depths of [the characters],” a criticism that could just as easily be made of Meryl Streep’s recent—and much lauded—impersonations of such figures as Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher, and Anna Wintour. In other words, there’s nothing gay-specific about a screen-actor’s performance being a series of more or less believable tics and gimmicks. (Val Kilmer’s take on Jim Morrison in The Doors, anyone?)
And of course, following the piece to its logical conclusion opens up a host of related questions. If straight actors can’t play gay parts, what else is off limits? Can Jewish actors play gentiles? (Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.) Can Californians play Alabamians? (Tom Hanks as the title character in Forrest Gump.) Can gay actors play straight roles? (Rock Hudson in . . . every role he ever played.)
In sum, Salon’s scribe seems to have forgotten that the job of actors is . . . acting. The whole point of the exercise is to inhabit a role that isn’t your own. Imagine his reaction when he learns that Laurence Olivier, who played Richard III to much acclaim in 1955, wasn’t actually handicapped.
Affirmative action and the betrayal of a colorblind society.Jan 21, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 18 • By GEORGE LEEF
Almost no one understood it at the time, but Lyndon Johnson’s speech at Howard University in June 1965 marked a disastrous change in civil rights policy. Previously, the civil rights movement had sought to overturn the entrenched, often legally mandated discrimination that was the legacy of Jim Crow, and bring about the colorblind society in which people would be judged (as Martin Luther King put it) by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
With Fisher v. University of Texas, the High Court can finally put an end to racial preferences in university admissionsOct 1, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 03 • By CARL COHEN
Abigail Fisher, a white applicant to the University of Texas, contends that the university, in giving preference to minority applicants while rejecting her, discriminated against her unlawfully because of her color. The Supreme Court will hear the case this fall; it is likely that Fisher will prevail. The Texas 10 percent law and the special circumstances of that university present complications, of course, but the makeup of the Supreme Court today differs importantly from that of the Court that decided Grutter v.
1:56 PM, Jul 9, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The Arkansas Democratic party is denying presidential candidate John Wolfe the delegates he earned in the state's primary because Wolfe's selected delegates fail to meet the party's standards for diversity.
They're Asian Americans.Jun 11, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 37 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Like many colleges and universities, Princeton professes its devotion to “institutional equity and diversity.” The university’s website claims that the school “actively seek[s] students, faculty, and staff of exceptional ability and promise who . . .
A Duke study documents the harm racial preferences in college admissions can do to the intended beneficiaries. Feb 20, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 22 • By HEATHER MAC DONALD
Policies that give preferential treatment based on race and sex are under fire in states across the country. 2:00 PM, Oct 10, 2011 • By KEVIN MOONEY
Opponents of state ballot initiatives that outlaw race and gender based affirmative action programs have vowed to take their fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ward Connerly, the former University of California Regent who was the galvanizing influence behind Proposition 209, which amended that state’s constitution to prohibit preferential policies, would welcome that challenge.
A misguided policy. 9:43 AM, Mar 24, 2010 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
Pressing for a world without nuclear weapons, the State Department has been flacking the president’s upcoming Nuclear Security Summit, scheduled for April 12–13: "President Obama has invited over 40 nations to participate, representing a diverse set of regions and various levels of nuclear materials, energy, and expertise."
Does "a diverse set of regions" mean that affirmative action has become part of arms control? Does "various levels of expertise" mean there will be representatives with little expertise as well as great expertise? Is the State Department being run by diplomats or clowns?
Colleges are doing away with their racially exclusive programs--even though they would prefer not to.11:00 PM, Mar 24, 2004 • By TERRY EASTLAND
YEARS AGO, once colleges and universities had decided to make race and ethnicity "a factor" in their admissions, many of them cast about for additional ways to advance educational opportunity for minorities. So they came up with scholarship and financial aid programs, freshmen orientation programs, and academic-enrichment programs, to name the most prominent. And they made sure that the programs were, as the lawyers say, racially and ethnically exclusive. Only minorities were eligible.
The dishonest assault on the Racial Privacy Initiative.Sep 15, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 01 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
ON OCTOBER 7, Californians will be offered more than a chance to pick a new governor. They will be asked whether they want to amend the state's constitution to outlaw most public classifications by race. Under Proposition 54--known as the Racial Privacy Initiative to its backers, and as CRECNO (the Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color, or National Origin Initiative) to the ballot attorneys--the state could not require racial or ethnic information from those applying to college or seeking a job or a loan.
From the August 25, 2003 Dallas Morning News: The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights tries to bring an end to campus speech codes created in its name.12:00 AM, Sep 2, 2003 • By TERRY EASTLAND
IN A JULY LETTER to colleges and universities across the country, Gerald Reynolds, head of the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, addressed "a subject," as he put it, "of central importance to our government, our heritage of freedom and our way of life: the First Amendment." Reynolds' office doesn't have the authority to bring lawsuits to enforce the First Amendment. What, you might wonder, possessed him to write a letter about it?
The answer begins with the fact that hundreds of colleges and universities have policies restricting speech that the First Amendment protects.
From the July 29, 2003 Dallas Morning News: John Dingell tries to put Ward Connerly in his place.12:00 AM, Aug 1, 2003 • By TERRY EASTLAND
AT FIRST GLANCE, you might think, as I did, that the letter from Rep. John Dingell of Michigan to a fellow American--a law-abiding American--wasn't his but a parody. Surely, someone who fancies himself a satirist wrote the letter.
After all, would Dingell (or any member of Congress) actually write a letter commanding the recipient, who lives in another state, to "go home and stay there, you're not welcome here"? Surely, someone jests! But, no, the letter happens not to be a parody. Dingell wrote it, or he at least signed it.
Aug 4, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 45 • By
Boss Dingell and the Outside Agitator
Ward Connerly sure knows how to get under John Dingell's skin. The point man in passing California's Proposition 209 in 1996, Connerly is supporting a Michigan initiative that would similarly ban race preferences in state hiring and university admissions. This provoked Michigan's famously bullying congressman into writing an astonishing letter that suggests Dingell would be right at home in the Democratic party of George Wallace, circa 1963.