Every day brings news of another racially-inflected instance of someone being canceled or otherwise denounced, like evolutionist Richard Dawkins being disinvited from a lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, because someone discovered that he says harsh things about Islam (as a militant atheist, he says harsh things about Christianity, too, but that has never been a bar to his appearing on a campus for some strange reason), or the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and three other prominent galleries, which recently announced that they are “postponing” a planned exhibit by Philip Guston, a modern artist who the museum fears will trigger some museum goers because some of his cartoons include depictions of Klan robes.
I have never heard of Guston, but he apparently holds all the correct political views, so what’s the problem? The art critic of Bezos Bulletin tells us:
The leaders of these four museums, Kaywin Feldman of the NGA, Matthew Teitelbaum of the MFA Boston, Gary Tinterow of the MFA Houston and Frances Morris of Tate Modern, said they had decided that the Guston show should be postponed “until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston’s work can be more clearly interpreted.”
I have read some unfathomable doublespeak coming out of museum PR departments in my time, but this is by far the most ludicrous. The show is titled “Philip Guston Now.” The idea that work with a powerful message of social and racial justice — as they themselves put it — should have to wait until some future when they think our current tumult and confusion has been magically cleaned up is truly Orwellian.
Ludicrous indeed, but par for the course right now.
But by far the craziest story of the week comes from Prof. Matthew Mayhew of Ohio State University, who in an amazing feat of self-inflicted Maoist struggling, has disavowed an article he wrote only a week ago at Inside Higher Ed on “Why America Needs College Football.” I’m not sure why America needs college football, though I know why Ohio State and similar universities do—they need the cash. But that’s not why Mayhew abased himself with a retraction today in IHE that reads like a parody (in fact I’m not sure it isn’t, except that IHE isn’t in the parody business). You have to read it, not to believe it:
I recently led a piece in Inside Higher Ed titled “Why America Needs College Football.” I am sorry for the hurt, sadness, frustration, fatigue, exhaustion and pain this article has caused anyone, but specifically Black students in the higher education community and beyond.
I am struggling to find the words to communicate the deep ache for the damage I have done. I don’t want to write anything that further deepens the pain experienced by my ignorance related to Black male athletes and the Black community at any time, but especially in light of the national racial unrest. I also don’t want to write anything that suggests that antiracist learning is quick or easy. This is the beginning of a very long process, one that started with learning about the empirical work related to Black college football athletes. . .
To really begin the long process of antiracist learning, I am designing a plan for change, for turning the “I am sorry” to “I will change” — for moving Black Lives Matter from a motto to a pathway from ignorance and toward authentic advocacy. . . To be clear, no one should ever put their bodies on the line for entertainment. To be clear, football — like COVID-19 — places Black bodies at disproportional risk.
Mayhew is a professor of higher education at Ohio State. But he’s obviously a quick learner, as he’s adopted the peculiar woke vocabulary about “bodies” that is only a decade old but no mandatory for all such discussions. One only wonders what happened at Ohio State last week to poor Prof. Mayhew. Question: is Ohio State going to cancel its football season? Or is flogging Prof. Mayhew into making a fool of himself enough?