Insane political correctness: snowflakes urge destruction of Emmett Till painting

April 4, 2017 • 12:15 pm

If you know about the civil rights struggle in the U.S., you’ll know the story of Emmett Till. An African-American boy from near Chicago, Till, aged 14, went to visit relatives in Mississippi in 1955. There he was falsely accused of whistling at and flirting with a white woman. (It’s recently come to light that she completely fabricated that story.) Because of his supposed “crime”, Till was tortured and killed by the woman’s husband and his half brother.

The two men were arrested and tried for the kidnapping and murder of Till, but—as usual back then—were acquitted by an all-white jury, though the men later admitted they did the deed. (Laws against double jeopardy prevented another trial.)

Here’s Till a year before his murder:

When Till’s body was returned to Chicago, his face battered and mauled, his mother insisted on an open-casket funeral so people could see what had been done to her boy. I won’t show the picture, but you can see it here; it was published in the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper, and then republished widely, horrifying both black and white Americans. Till’s death and the open-coffin funeral did have a galvanizing effect on the civil rights movement, probably helping fuel the Montgomery (Alabama) bus boycott in late 1955.

Now, however, a painting based on the open-casket photo has stirred a big controversy in the art world—because it was painted by a white woman, artist Dana Schutz. The painting is below:

(From the Guardian): Photograph: Alina Heineke/AP

And the Guardian reports this:

At the centre of the battle over cultural appropriation is artist Dana Schutz’s expressionist painting Open Casket (2016), a gruesome depiction of Emmett Till, lynched in Mississippi in 1955.

The painting, on display at the Whitney Biennial exhibition, initially drew swift condemnation from critics who claimed Schutz, who is white, was taking advantage of a defining moment in African American history.

African American artist Parker Bright stood in front of the painting with Black Death Spectacle written on his T-shirt, and a young British artist, Hannah Black, accused Schutz of having “nothing to say to the black community about black trauma”, demanding that the work “be destroyed and not entered into any market or museum”.

Wikipedia‘s bio of Schutz gives more detail about the accusations of cultural appropriation:

Artist and Whitney ISP graduate Hannah Black started a petition for the painting to be removed, writing:

… it is not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun, though the practice has been normalized for a long time. Although Schutz’s intention may be to present white shame, this shame is not correctly represented as a painting of a dead Black boy by a white artist — those non-Black artists who sincerely wish to highlight the shameful nature of white violence should first of all stop treating Black pain as raw material. The subject matter is not Schutz’s; white free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.

Schutz responded, “I don’t know what it is like to be black in America, but I do know what it is like to be a mother. Emmett was Mamie Till’s only son. The thought of anything happening to your child is beyond comprehension. […] It is easy for artists to self-censor. To convince yourself to not make something before you even try. There were many reasons why I could not, should not, make this painting … (but) art can be a space for empathy, a vehicle for connection.”

Josephine Livingstone and Lovia Gyarkye of the New Republic argued Open Casket is a form of cultural appropriation disrespectful toward Mobley’s intention for the images of her son. [JAC: see that article here.] Describing how the painting undermines the photograph they wrote, “Mobley wanted those photographs to bear witness to the racist brutality inflicted on her son; instead Schutz has disrespected that act of dignity, by defacing them with her own creative way of seeing.” Scholar Christina Sharpe, one of 34 other signers of Black’s letter, argued for the destruction of the painting so that neither the artist nor future owners of the painting could profit off it.  Schutz’s work reportedly goes for up to $482,500 at auction.

Here’s Parker Bright protesting the painting:

Art News has published Hannah Black’s open letter to the Whitney asking that the painting be removed. Besides the bit above, Black wrote this:

As you know, this painting depicts the dead body of 14-year-old Emmett Till in the open casket that his mother chose, saying, “Let the people see what I’ve seen.” That even the disfigured corpse of a child was not sufficient to move the white gaze from its habitual cold calculation is evident daily and in a myriad of ways, not least the fact that this painting exists at all. In brief: the painting should not be acceptable to anyone who cares or pretends to care about Black people because it is not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun, though the practice has been normalized for a long time.

. . .Through his mother’s courage, Till was made available to Black people as an inspiration and warning. Non-Black people must accept that they will never embody and cannot understand this gesture: the evidence of their collective lack of understanding is that Black people go on dying at the hands of white supremacists, that Black communities go on living in desperate poverty not far from the museum where this valuable painting hangs, that Black children are still denied childhood. Even if Schutz has not been gifted with any real sensitivity to history, if Black people are telling her that the painting has caused unnecessary hurt, she and you must accept the truth of this. The painting must go.

To Parker Bright, Hannah Black, and other critics of this painting, I say this:

I completely reject your criticism. If only artists of the proper ethnicity can depict violence inflicted on their group, then only writers of the proper ethnicity can write about the same issues, and so on with all the arts. And what goes for ethnicity or race goes for gender: men cannot write about suffering inflicted on women, nor women about suffering inflicted on men. Gays cannot write about straight people and vice versa.

The fact is that we are all human, and we are all capable of sharing, as well as depicting, the pain and suffering of others.  I will not allow you to fracture art and literature the way you have fractured politics. Yes, horrible injustices have been visited on minority groups, on women, on gays, and on other marginalized people, but to allow that injustice to be conveyed only by “properly ethnic or gendered artists” is to deny us our common humanity and deprive us of emotional solidarity. No group, whatever its pigmentation or chromosomal constitution, has the exclusive right to create art or literature about their own subgroup. To deny others that right is to censor them.

To those who say this painting has caused them “unnecessary hurt” because it is by a white artist about black pain, I say, “Your own pain about this artwork is gratuitous; I do not take it seriously. It’s the cry of a coddled child who simply wants attention.”

As for the accusation that this painting was done for “profit and fun,” that’s a disgusting and reprehensible thing to say. We cannot allow the Culture of Offense to rule the Culture of Art. If art is to flourish in a free society, it can be criticized, but it cannot be censored.

Emmett Till was black, but his story belongs to all of us.

h/t: Su

164 thoughts on “Insane political correctness: snowflakes urge destruction of Emmett Till painting

  1. Hear! hear! Well put. The idea that we are all human and that one of our unifying features is to be able to empathise and sympathise with others is profound, yet also surprisingly intuitive. Consider that we can all immerse ourselves in fictional stories and foreign worlds and experience compassion, pain, anger, sorrow, joy, love or hatred for a variety of characters. To deny our ability to sympathise and place ourselves in another’s shoes is to deny our common humanity and one of our incredible abilities (I wonder how many other species possess this ability?).

  2. Bright and Black are racists, every bit as repugnant as the Klansmen whose mold they so perfectly fit.

    No — I’m perfectly serious. Do a simple substitute / replace of “black” and “white” and publish it in some sort of neo-Nazi magazine and nobody would blink.

    Dr. King would be simultaneously furious, disgusted, and ashamed of these reprobates.

    What matters is not the melanin expression in the skin, but the thoughts in the mind. Schutz saw Till’s final portrait, and her mind was filled with a mother’s anguish — the only sane response, and one which she expressed as best she could. She clearly saw Till as if he were her own son.

    But Bright and Black don’t recognize a grieving mother in Schutz, and instead only see the color of her skin. They act as inhuman monsters for denying humanity from a woman in pain at the cruel death of a child.



    1. “Bright and Black are racists, every bit as repugnant as the Klansmen whose mold they so perfectly fit.”

      No Ben, they may very well be racists, but their level of “repugnance” is orders of magnitude less that that of the Klansmen.

      1. I disagree. Today’s Klan (the 3,000 or so that are left) simply promote white power over all other races and try to suppress other races’ cultures. I see no difference between that and what these people are doing, except for two facts: the races are different, and there are a hell of a lot more folks out there like Bright and Black.

        1. I see your point Ben. I was thinking of the Klan back when they were lynching, burning crosses etc.

          1. Oh, I totally understand. That’s what we all still think of first when we think of the Klan. It’s just not what they are today.

            I totally get where you’re coming from, though

          1. It’s been half a century since lynchings and bombings were common and acceptable-to-them activities of the Klan — and just about as long since the Black Panthers and the like retaliated in kind. I called them racists, not terrorists.

            Dr. King’s brilliant song of fearless colorblind pacifism remains the best-remembered anthem of the Civil Rights era, and most Americans and all civilized people at least pay lip service to it. Yes, his Dream is not yet fully realized — but it’s more tangible today than at any prior point in our history.

            But not for reprobates such as Bright and Black, stuck wrangling in the mud with the pigs of the Klan. And is it any wonder that I can’t tell the difference between the two? All covered in shit, them folks all look the same to me.



            1. People like Bright and Black have gone so far left that they’ve come around to the Klan’s way of thinking: segregation, separation of cultures, etc.

    1. On the same grounds that all regressives do: any group they consider oppressed needs them to speak out on their behald, and any individuals within said group who disagree with their views are race traitors, Uncle Toms, or (and this is the most reprehensible, but also most common, term I’ve seen used against such dissent) “house niggers.”

    2. Yes. I was also wondering on what grounds they presume to speak to white people. If we are as divided as all that, do they expect us to hear and understand?

    3. On what grounds do Parker Bright and Hannah Black claim to speak on behalf of the African-American community?

      They are (self appointed) experts – and everybody trusts experts. Except that more and more people are realising that many ‘experts’ are merely people with public exposure pushing their own self-interests.

  3. Wind that shakes the barley, about the Irish war of independence and civil war was directed by Ken Loach an Englishman. He must give back the Palme d’Or he won as it clearly was gained on the back of immense suffering and bloodshed.

    Same with Daniel day-lewis and his Oscar for my left foot. He took it from any Irish disabled actor who could’ve played the part!

        1. If the movie were made today, people would probably be making that argument. Look at the assertion that transgender characters must be played by transgender actors [e.g. “Boys Don’t Cry”].

  4. “I completely reject your criticism.”

    Yours is a very well written appeal to reason. I hope it gets picked up and widely shared.

  5. Bravo!!! I applaud your denouncement of the blithe that is political correctness that has pervaded practically every corner of society. I applaud your perspective. We must all be able to participate, contribute and be equally able to react to the human condition in the many beautiful and horrible forms it takes.

  6. “Cultural appropriation” is the reductio ad absurdum of the idea of intellectual property.

    Cultures, memes, concepts, viewpoints and history are not and cannot be property.

    1. I recently saw an argument take place on Tumblr. A person posted that anyone who uses the word “boi” is committing cultural appropriation against black people because the word originated in AAVE (African American Vernacular English, or what used to be called “Ebonics”). They were then corrected by another poster, who pointed out that the gay and BDSM communities had been using it before it entered AAVE. The initial poster responded that it didn’t matter because if it’s now part of AAVE, nobody else can use it without being a cultural appropriator.

      So even things that are appropriated from other cultures can no longer be used by those in groups lower on the oppression hierarchy once a higher group appropriates it. Fascinating, eh?

    2. I have a problem with the whole idea of “intellectual property”. The whole of civilization is built on ideas being shared around freely, built on and developed, and NOT being treated as property.

      I heard James Dyson gloating about how he had defeated Hoover’s attempt to manufacture the vacuum cleaners that he had worked up, based on the cyclonic separators that have long been commonly used in sawmills and other factories, and it just sounded unseemly. Imagine if Porsche had patented front-wheel drive, or Ugg the wheel!

      Certainly people should be suitably rewarded for their creativity, but that is a different thing from restricting its use and development. I don’t know what the approach should be, but it should be different from “Mine, mine, the precioussss!”

      1. Was it Marx who said ‘Property is theft’?

        When it comes to ‘intellectual property’ that is very often the case. Companies write patents as widely and vaguely as possible in order to use them, either to stifle the competition with legal threats, or to build up an arsenal of patents to use in patent wars with other companies. The law should not let itself be used as a weapon in this way.

        The original idea of patents was to encourage innovation through rewarding people for experimenting and innovating new ideas. Patent examiners were supposed to weed out patents that were too vague, or reflected ‘prior art’, or that were obvious. Patents were, I believe, supposed to be granted only for a completed functioning device or mechanism; you couldn’t patent an idea and if someone else produced a working example first, they won. That was the idea, anyway.

        Now most of the creativity seems to be exercised by the patent lawyers who write the applications. No way should anyone ever be able to patent a ‘rectangle with rounded corners’ for a smartphone. What other shape would it be?


      2. The concept of intellectual property is absolutely necessary if you want a culture of sharing ideas freely.

        If there is no intellectual property then taking somebody else’s idea and profiting from it is not a crime, which means that people whose primary income is based on selling ideas will have to do something else instead, or, keep the ideas secret. Either way, the ideas are not available to be “shared around freely, built on and developed”.

        1. The problem arises, not from people’s ownership of their own created intellectual property, but when they abuse the concept by over-broad claims on the territory that actively prevent other people from working in the same area. Seeking to have a monopoly on ideas rather than sharing them freely.


          1. I quite agree. The idea of a patent is not a bad one in principle: an inventor publishes their idea in exchange for protection of their revenue stream for a period. However the system is currently being abused. this does not mean that the principle is unsound though.

            1. It’s without a doubt a necessary system, it’s just the abuses that are allowed that must be stopped. But the system of intellectual property definitely cannot be scrapped.

              1. The essence of property is undisturbed use and enjoyment. The essence of things intellectual is that you can create them, give them away and still keep them (still have undisturbed use and enjoyment). The digital age has changed completely the constraints on the distribution of data. There are virtually none.

                As I said earlier, “people should be suitably rewarded for their creativity, but that is a different thing from restricting its use and development.” In this age of Creative Commons and micropayments, I still feel we should have a more creative solution than patenting to retain both
                a) reward for creativity and
                b) the free flow and development of ideas.

                A parallel idea (but I’m assured a completely different system) is the copyright of written etc. ideas. There there is the concept of “fair use” where for example, a review may quote significantly from a created work, or sampling may (?) take part and manipulate it into something else.

              2. Copyright and patents work very differently.

                Patents have to be applied for, paid for and granted, and they can cover a range of ideas or concepts (including, in practice, features that haven’t actually been implemented). ‘Prior art’ will invalidate a patent. They only operate in the country where they have been issued.

                Copyright arises automatically in any creative work (including computer programs) with no action needed by the creator. It does not prohibit look-alike works unless they incorporate e.g. sections of the original text. This is why it is possible to write drop-in replacements for computer applications without infringing the original copyright.


              3. Infinite — oh, I know. I went to three years of law school. Still, they’re all necessary systems — it’s the abuse we have to stop.

              4. @BJ –
                “Infinite — oh, I know. I went to three years of law school.”

                Actually I was replying to hugh7 at that point, just the way WP nests comments made it look like I was talking to you. Can be deceptive. A reminder to me to make it clearer who I’m replying to.


        2. I remember hearing of a recording artist at the zenith of his popularity who had the power to extract co-songwriter credit from songwriters, as the price they’d have to pay for him to deign to record their tunes, when he himself had not lifted a finger to write one note or lyric. I expressed my disapproval of that to (at that time) a chum (a self-described person of faith), who dismissed my disapproval, saying to the effect that it was “just business” and “a generally-accepted practice.” So much for respect for intellectual property (and intellectual integrity), at least in that particular case.

    1. Yes! I wonder what they hope to accomplish by their inappropriate objections? Do they ever even think about that?

  7. The protestors clearly don’t understand the Streisand Effect. They think by protesting this piece of art and calling for it to be burned, that the auction price will go down and people who talk about art will talk about it less?

    Their own actions give it the social relevance they claimed it lacked.

    Through his mother’s courage, Till was made available to Black people as an inspiration and warning. Non-Black people must accept that they will never embody and cannot understand this gesture

    Wow. I certainly don’t think I feel the depth of horror that that young boy’s mother felt, since nothing like this has happened to me. But I hope and expect that many non-black people were inspired to fight for civil rights in response to her gesture, and I also expect that many people both past and present would understand the symbolism of what she did.

    1. Yeah, as someone who lost over half his family to the Bolshevik Revolution and the Holocaust simply because they were Jewish, I can never understand what loss based on ethnicity is like. Gee whiz.

      These people never think about anyone but themselves and how they can shut down any criticism or blowback from their ideology.

      1. It’s not just ethnic violence that’s obviously pan-cultural, her response to it is too. In fact every time the US (accidentally or intentionally) bombs some small town in the mid-east, what do the affected civilians in the town do in response? Parade the bodies of any dead children in front of news cameras. Which they should do – I’m not attacking the gesture, I think it’s entirely appropriate. But I also think it’s a very common response you see from many distraught communities, when they are faced with violent actors they can do nothing directly about. And, ironically, the reason communities publicly display such victims is because they believe people outside their community will understand the gesture. They’re counting on it, in fact.

        1. I agree.

          However, unfortunately, if the currency of your social circles and ideology is victimhood, you have every incentive (perhaps even obligation, in the eyes of ideological purity) to attempt to gain a monopoly on victimhood.

    2. My guess is that their main goal is to garner as much publicity for their viewpoint as is possible. If it means that the painting (along with their negative comments) gets increased publicity, so much the better. They know full well that the painting is not going to be destroyed.

      1. Unless they destroy it. Not difficult to empty a pot of (preferably black) paint over it. I’d be very careful now who I let get close to it.

  8. There are very few accusations of “cultural appropriation” to which I am sympathetic.

    To earn a modicum of my sympathy, the appropriation must also

    1) entail a strong falsification of the culture being appropriated and/or represent the suffering of a minority culture in grotesquely morally simplistic ways. (Many Hollywood movies on race are this way unfortunately. Remember when every movie about race starred Sidney Poitier as an overly idealized non-sexual black man?)

    2) take advantage of a diminished ability of member of the minority culture to engage in similar self-expression. (White jazz bands getting airtime and concert venues in the South when black ones cannot.)

    [I will eventually think of more criteria].

    Needless to say, the painting doesn’t come close to fulfilling any of the basic criterion of toxic cultural appropriation.

    Here is a similar but slightly more problematic example:

    Pope John Paul II went out of his way to be the most Jewish-friendly Pope ever, being the first one to attend and participate in a Jewish worship service. (I am NOT counting St. Peter!!!) He spent his teen years living in a mostly Jewish neighborhood (the only thing we have in common- the similarities end there!!)

    The came the canonization of Edith Stein and declaring her a martyr.
    (I take an extremely dim view of the whole process of canonization of saints [Robert Bellarmine and Mother Teresa- really???? need three certified miracles???? as Saturday Night Live’s Father Guido Sarducci once said commenting on Elizabeth Seton “Confidentially, I understand two of them were card trick.”], but let’s provisionally take this rather goofy process at face value.)

    The Pope not only canonized Jew-turned-Catholic Edith Stein as a saint, but even added her to the official list of Catholic martyrs, although she was killed by Nazis for her Jewish ancestry!!!
    (This makes her the second official martyr with an odd wrinkle. Joan of Arc is the only official martyr whose executioners were…Catholic church authorities [kinda ballsy then for the Vatican to so declare J of A- gotta use those balls for something, I guess], but Stein is the only official martyr whose execution had to do with her being Jewish.)

    This did not go down well with the Jewish community that JP2 had tried to cozy up to.
    The Catholic defense is that her arrest (along with multiple other Jewish Catholics in Holland) was a retaliation against an overt condemnation of Nazi racism by the Dutch Catholic bishops. As Wikipedia puts it “The Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the nation on 20 July 1942 condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on 26 July 1942 the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts who had previously been spared.”
    She died at Auschwitz.

    If one provisionally grants any legitimacy to the notion of canonizing saints [Again, removing Bellarmine and Theresa in particular would be a really good idea.] canonizing ES may make a bit of sense.
    But putting her on the official list of martyrs grates of inappropriate appropriation of a Jewish tragedy by Christians for reasonably obvious reasons.

    1. Its entirely possible the artist had venal motives. I doubt it, but since we can’t read each others’ minds, its possible.

      However, the fact that we can’t read each others’ minds and that art is very much about the what the viewer sees in the work is part of the point here. Let’s say I’m standing next to the picture in the gallery and someone else walks up and looks at the painting. “How does it make you feel?” I ask them. If that person answers “you’ll have to tell me the color of the skin of the artist before I can answer that,” then this tells me something important about you, the viewer. It tells me hardly anything about the painting itself.

    2. 3. (or 1a.) Use the appropriated material in a way contrary to the culture from which it was appropriated. In NZ Māori tradition the head is sacred (tapu), cooked food is desanctifying (noa), so dishes and teatowels with the images of chiefs’ heads are offensive. These used to be common souvenirs. Now they are mercifully rare.

    3. To me there are very different ideas about the *outcome* of the charge of cultural appropriation.

      I may be misremembering, but my friend Raven used to say that she found the use of feathered headdresses on children, young people, etc. to be “cultural appropriation” (though not in so many words). But *I think* she would also add that this calls for education, awareness and, in the best Inuit (notice the change in cultural group!!) tradition, mocking. “You must be so proud to have a son so young who has fought in so many battles and braved many dangers!” “What? He’s 5 years old” “He has 36 feathers, such a large number of accomplishments for someone so young!” and so on. (I don’t do the “Inuit sarcasm” as well as she does. Some of it would traditionally not be the kind of thing we should also say on a “family friendly” website either. :))

      I hope my explanation of Inuit mocking traditions is not paradoxical. 😉

      1. I remember a production of “Annie Get Your Gun” in the 1970s that might have had this in mind. When Annie sang “I’m an Indian too” ( ), she wore a garish tourist-style feather headdress and danced around, while Sitting Bull sat with immense dignity in the middle, wearing a much more authentic one.

  9. The gut wrenching horror induced by Emmett Till’s murder is not confined to any one race.

    Schutz’s painting will reawaken that horror in any decent person who sees it. Schutz has performed a public service by painting it, and Jerry has performed a public service by defending it.

  10. Either empathy is a universal human sentiment, meaning that everyone can empathize with everyone, or it isn’t. If it isn’t, no one cam empathize, because no one can know exactly what the experience of an other person was like. That an artist born in the 70s or 60s should today be able to empathize more with a victim of a racist murder just by virtue of his or her skin color is simply preposterous.

    This silly term cultural appropriation is so misguided. Culture is all about appropriation. Every successful cultural practice was appropriated. Hunter-gatherers took over farming from their neighbors. That’s how culture spreads.

  11. Great Stuff! A positive from this backlash is the publicity gained for the artist.

    “Emmett Till was a human and his story belongs to humanity.”

    Thanks for speaking out.

  12. When I saw the title of the article, my first thought (although I had a very slight hope that it wouldn’t be true) was- “The painter was white, I’ll bet”. Just another example of the madness of this “movement”. I suppose that no white kid can wear his pants hanging halfway down his butt, either?

  13. “I completely reject your criticism …..(till the end of the next three paragraphs)”. Could it have been put better and more forcefully? I don’t think so.
    I cannot think how one could express better everything what is despicable and vile about identity politics (and politics it is). Hat off!

    1. My sentiments exactly.

      Only I’d add that, not only are they like spoiled children yelling “Look at me! Look at me!,” they are also talentless hacks who, being unable to create art, do research, or engage in any useful service to humanity, try to use any tactics they can to grab a bit of cultural power for themselves. Sort of a cross between pathetic and disgusting.

  14. Great response, Jerry.

    It’s ironic when oppressed groups argue that they deserve respect because they’re just like everyone else and then cry foul when they’re treated like everyone else.

  15. Well then, the poem “Babi Yar” by the recently deceased Yevgeny Yevtushenko should be repudiated because Yevtushenko wasn’t Jewish. Same for Shostakovich’s Babi Yar Symphony.

    1. Thanks for the reference to the poem – hadn’t read it before. Searing stuff. I remember reading about Babi Yar as a teenager and it, even more than the camps, came to symbolise the holocaust for me.

  16. If we follow these cultural appropriation rules to their logical conclusion, we will eventually ghettoize ourselves and “other” every race, gender, etc. who is not us and “othering” is a short step to hating.

    Who wants to live in a world like this?

    1. One of the things I wish current social justice types did, was go back and read the arguments of their historical opponents. Actually try to understand the thinking of history’s villains.

      Because this whole “cultural appropriation” nonsense? South Africa had a government that was quite firmly against it. The government of that day called the system they used to fight “cultural appropriation” Apartheid.

      And they used a lot of the same arguments to justify it back then, as these idiots use now.

      But social justice types just don’t, they’re so sure of their own righteousness that they never have to stop and consider whether anybody has ever thought the same things before and had it go terribly wrong.

      1. I think they know. I mean, they have to know that a big part of the civil rights movement was desegregation, but now they’re fighting for segregation. A big part of the civil rights movement was not looking down upon interracial couples, but now we see social justice bloggers saying “we lost another one” every time a successful PoC marries a white person. A big part of the civil rights movement was allowing cultures to intermingle, but now we see social justice warriors fighting to keep cultures separate from each other.

        They truly are regressive in every sense of the word.

        1. This has been, unfortunately, going on a long time. Raven (mentioned above) used to tick off her fellow Native American activists by saying that the only way the valuable aspects of their various cultural traditions would survive is to allow anyone to join and adopt them: using culturally appropriate prerequisites, like universities or apprenticeship relations in European contexts.

          I think she’s right, and that it generalizes beyond the NA context, but I’m just a white guy, so what do I know? 😉

      2. Just like they don’t see the obvious ways which equating speech to violence and approving violence as a response to speech, as well as censorship and deplatforming, could ever be turned around against them.

        No, surely they’ll be the ones to do it right. They’re special and anointed and everything will always go swimmingly for them, except all the times that it doesn’t and they’re left dumbfounded with jaws agape wondering what happened and whose fault it is (not theirs obviously).

  17. I am glad to see the art and protesters speak as they wish.

    I am also glad PCC(E) chose to highlight the Emmett Till story in one Hili Dialogue a while back – how sickened I was, how startled, to be so old in the USA, and to have been completely ignorant of the story.

  18. One could argue that the painting depicts white racism. To whom does white racism “belong?” To black people or white people?

  19. I hope Schutz follows it up with a painting based on the photo of two lynched men that inspired the song, “Strange Fruit.”

    The target audience for her painting isn’t black people (though many of them don’t know enough about history). I see it, and “Strange Fruit” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” as portrayals designed to inspire white compassion. That’s not a bad thing.

  20. I wonder how many people think that any part of their life can be understand by another person. I call this diode appropriation: one way understanding, appreciation, and empathy.

    Anyone can understand my all aspects of my life. But there’s always some {minority} person who claims no one can understand their circumstances.

    I am not them so I cannot understand them, and yet anyone else can understand me? Same leptons in their bodies as mine. We need some kind of gravedigger spectrometer that says we’re all same.

    “What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter? The answer is a gravedigger.”

    Let me fix that:

    What is he that builds stronger than either a racist, a bigot, or a regressive liberal? The answer is a gravedigger.

    1. I fully accept that I won’t be able to understand the circumstances of someone else’s life. What I reject is the notion that a mere partial improvement in understanding, leading to empathy, better social equality and cooperation, is considered a failure.

      The goal of communicating about social issues and biases isn’t, as far as I’m aware, to become Spock and achieve a mind meld with that person. It’s to learn where we might unintentionally be treating other people like crap, so that in the future we treat each other more decently, with more honesty and fairness, etc… than we did before. At least IMO.

  21. It is very good that this attitude comes into broad daylight such clearly. There are only few ideologies that are extreme enough for demanding the destruction of art, routinely dehumanize entire groups and are unashamedly against the freedom of expression. The Regressives/Woke/Intersectional/SJW lot, however you name them, are among them, together with fascism and totalitarian religion.

    I completely reject your criticism. If only artists of the proper ethnicity can depict violence inflicted on their group, then only writers of the proper ethnicity can write about the same issues, and so on with all the arts. And what goes for ethnicity or race goes for gender: men cannot write about suffering inflicted on women, nor women about suffering inflicted on men. Gays cannot write about straight people and vice versa.

    What’s more, such rules are contradictory. If art is kept ethnically and culturally pure as they demand, it will fall short on “diversity” — their other demand. What’s more Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer would probably love to see “white” people making “white art”. In the end, the CTRL Left and the ALT Right are twin movements in spirit. Unfortunately, together these ideologies today largely characterize US secularlism, including some big organisations. This should be a greater concern than it is at the moment.

  22. Very well said, and fully supported. The most chilling part of Hannah Black’s diatribe is:

    “White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraints of others, and are not natural rights”.

    Now why is this not racist hate speech? Well, I think I know the answer. The fact remains that free speech and creative freedom are all our rights. We need to defend them against all comers, including in the first instance these ignorant yahoos.

    1. I don’t think the sentiment is racism so much as it is the “zero sum game” idea – i.e., that white artists selling art means less black artists selling art. Books by men about women characters prevent women authors from selling. Or books by whites about black experiences prevent black authors from being published. And so on. This seems to me to be the gist of the protest complaint, even if it is parsed in language that sounds more just flat-out racist.

  23. Hannah Black says, inter alia, that “white free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights”, based on her own logic she has not had the cultural or social experiences that give rise to “white” expressions of speech or art, therefore, she cannot say what the motivations are or on what they have been founded. How then can we conclude that they are or are not natural rights – whatever they might be.

    1. Does she really want to say that human rights, that came out of the Enlightenment, only apply to white people? I guess they really aren’t inalienable….

      1. The “argument” I’ve seen is something like: the Enlightenment thinkers were racist (classist, sexist, whatever) so their remarks about universalism etc. isn’t genuine, so we can reject it. It is the same as the pomo version when it comes to science, and is ridiculous for the same reasons: it is a complete and utter non sequitur.

        The Enlightnment is valuable precisely because it (accidentally?) captured more human universalism than anything ever before, and also contains the seeds to correct its own limitations, and to correct the limitations of its key figures. I wail on Kant a lot, but at least I can (modulo language) imagine debating with the guy – not so an anti-Enlightenment figure like Heidegger or his contemporary followers / “think”-a-likes.

  24. If you call for a work of art to be destroyed because it makes you uncomfortable then you are no longer allowed to call yourself an artist. Artists CREATE art. If this painting upsets them so much then they should use those feelings to inspire their own creative work.

  25. It doesn’t even matter who painted it. You should be able to judge the painting by its own merits. If you found it and had no idea where it came from, then what would you say about it. That’s the important part.

    In some situations it can be better because of the creator but the creator is no reason not to appreciate the creation.

    1. I agree with what you say, altho I did not for a few years. During that time, I listened to no music by Wagner or Orff. I think this is a problem which can only be resolved by each individual for himself.

      1. This is apposite – if you figure you can’t take X seriously because of Y characteristics, in the vast majority of cases, that’s *your* call, and *your* decision. Don’t try to make it for others.

  26. A truly excellent response, Jerry. The part that shook me the most in Black’s words were the bits about “white free speech” and “white creative freedom.” Once we start offering different definitions for X’s free speech or creative freedom dependent on X, we are institutionalizing inequality.

  27. “Insane” is right. I hope this is a jumping the shark moment for this kind of nonsense. But something tells me we haven’t heard the last from these fascists.

  28. Nicely said, Citizen Coyne.

    I’m all in favor of cultural appropriation on a massive scale, by and from every group and sub-group in our great melting pot, so long as it’s done with due respect (and even where it’s not, it’s still afforded the protections for free expression).

  29. I’m still a little hacked about all these nuns running around with that hateful symbol of suffering and oppression hanging around their necks.

    What can they know of male pain?

  30. I agree entirely with the original post and the comments here (though it is all rather preaching to the choir, I guess). My only criticism is the title: there is so much wrong with the ideas expressed on this work of art (and on art in general, not to say the human capacity for empathy, as well as its opposite), that I feel that the use of the “snowflake” epithet in the title is needlessly aggressive.

    What I mean is that if we are going to accept the artist’s ability to feel the pain of the bereaved mother and not call her a “snowflake” for that capacity, we should maybe accept the critics’ outrage as equally authentic, however wrongheaded, and simply deconstruct its wrongness, without resorting to epithets that, as metaphors of weakness (presumably rather than exquisite symmetry) seek to discredit the validity of their feelings. We have no way of knowing whether their outrage is real or synthetic, but I feel that the title of this posting acts as clickbait that doesn’t do justice to the robustness of the argument.

  31. How sad for these people. Empathy may be the greatest of human gifts. And what is empathy if not the desire and the ability to walk in foreign shoes so as to better understand.

    Humanizing those who are different from ourselves is the opposite of racism.

  32. African American artist Parker Bright stood in front of the painting with Black Death Spectacle written on his T-shirt, and a young British artist, Hannah Black, accused Schutz of having “nothing to say to the black community about black trauma”

    So a British artist wants to decide who can say what about a murdered American?

    Schutz is American. This is more her history than Black’s, who’s mother’s family were Russian Jews and who’s father has Caribbean-Irish ancestry.

    Yet another racial purist who wouldn’t be here had her ancestors shared her phobia about miscegenation.

  33. My favorite quote:

    “…Even the disfigured corpse of a child was not sufficient to move the white gaze from its habitual cold calculation…”

    Next, maybe Ms. Black will announce a public discussion on the subject: “Are whites human?”

    1. Well, several college courses have popped up in American colleges about “stopping” or “deconstructing” or “destroying” “whiteness.” They literally see “whiteness” as a thing that is not just skin color, but a system and form of oppression in and of itself.

  34. Well, it’s nice to see the snowflake, Hannah Black, coming right out and saying white people do not have free speech because not a right for while people. Is typing that oppression?

  35. The brutality implied by Emmett Till’s post mortem photograph is overwhelming to imagine. That poor child! That poor mother! And those other poor victims of similar lynching violence. Overwhelming…

  36. I have had this discussion with a few black people who take exception to the premise that any white person could empathize with the plight of people of colour. They maintain that all “white folks” are racist by birth and that we, in some way, all continue to enable racists and white supremacists. No white person is given any credit for their contribution to equal rights. I even had some call Bernie Sanders a racist.

    There is ample evidence that many whites, past and present, have risked life, limb and reputation in the cause of social justice for people of colour. To deny this is a slap in the face to those who acted in good faith when they could just as easily have sat out the entire confrontation.

    This painting isn’t a blasphemy, it’s a tribute. It doesn’t matter who painted it…it’s the intent that’s important.

    1. It’s not just that. The idea that all the groups they consider marginalized can’t be x-ist or x-phobic is also a core part of their philosophy. It’s a way to completely dismiss their racism against white people, their hatred of men, the serious issues of homophobia and antisemitism in the black and Muslim communities, etc. They redefine words so only the groups they don’t like can be guilty of the crimes they punish, and the groups they do like can’t ever be found guilty.

      1. That sorta smacks of “reverse racism”. Does reverse racism exist…or is it just a backlash against racism? People so used to being marginalized that they see a racist behind every smile. I’m not justifying it…i’m just suggesting a root cause.

        1. There’s no such thing as reverse racism. It’s racism whenever you hate someone because of their race, no matter what that race is. Same with any of the other things they decry, e.g. there is no reverse sexism, just sexism, no matter toward what sex it’s being directed.

          1. Ca. 1978, Berkeley, CA. I’m at a party with a bunch of the crew usual in that time and place. Maoists, Che devotees, etc.

            I’m being lectured to by a young woman about “sexism,” and she informs me that it means the oppression of women by men. ONLY. As the reverse is not possible, as females are preternaturally enlightened, etc. (Her dog was there. She had named him “Lucha.” (It means “‘struggle’,” she proudly informed me. I said: “Oh, you mean like a bar fight? Here, Barfie! Good dog, Barfie!” She was not amused…)

            Anyway, I suggested that she might want to consult a dictionary. Later, I did, and was shocked to read: “Sexism: the oppression of women by men.”

            I don’t remember what dictionary it was, and it really doesn’t matter. I doubt that you’d find it in a dictionary today. But next year? Who knows?

            1. Well, they’ve already forced the Oxford online dictionary to make some concessions last year, so….let’s just say I’m not optimistic. They will go after anything and everything that doesn’t kowtow to their ideology, even if they’ve purposefully changed the longstanding meanings of words for their own ends.

    2. I think it is worse than that – I’m no historian, but it seems to me that no marginalized group has ever won appropriate (however minor at the beginning) recognition was to have people on the *outside* agree with the movement and support it. For example, women’s rights required (initially) a critical mass of men; gay rights a mass of heterosexual support, etc. This is why a lot of human rights organizations work as educational organizations or the like: to help those in trouble by telling others of their plight.

      1. Indeed. They would hate MLK today, not just for his philosophy (judge by the content of one’s character, not the color of one’s skin), but because they loathe what they call his movement’s “respectability politics.” They believe they not only have the right (which they do), but that they should indeed be as disrespectful as possible to anyone they don’t like and anyone who disagrees.

        And if you do, in fact, ask them to educate you about the plight of some group or another, you get responses like “it’s not my job to educate you” or “what, I’m supposed to enact the emotional labor to educate some ignorant asshole?”

  37. We will never have a better world when people define themselves by their race, ethnicity, or religion. People such as Hannah Black are incapable of understanding this. In the Star Trek universe of several centuries hence, these attributes did not matter. This is what we should be aiming for. But whether we’ll ever hit this target is questionable.

    1. Even better, in the Star Trek universe all of these problems would be stopped by Captain Kirk punching someone.

  38. Yay Jerry!

    This is really unbelievable. Who would have thought that the liberal effort to respect people of all races would eventually be curved around by the far left to the point of making everything all about racial divisions?


    1. But that’s exactly the point. When the currency of your ideology and social circles is victimhood itself, you are obligated by the ideology and it is in your best interest to hoard victimhood points and attempt to deny them to any other groups you don’t like (e.g. white people, men).

  39. When emotions run hot that’s when I research to get to the broader and deeper implications, past the first responders frantic reactions. At the very least I got to know some very interesting artists.

    From the New Yorker piece

    The artist Kara Walker, whose work has explored race, sexuality, and violence, composed an Instagram post last week that referred to “Open Casket” without mentioning Schutz or her detractors. “The history of painting is full of graphic violence and narratives that don’t necessarily belong to the artists own life,” she wrote. “As are we all. I am more than a woman, more than the descendant of Africa, more than my fathers daughter. More than black more than the sum of my experiences thus far . . . art often lasts longer than the controversies that greet it. I say this as a shout to every artist and artwork that gives rise to vocal outrage. Perhaps it too gives rise to deeper inquiries and better art.”

    “… the impassioned response had a lot to do with the painting’s being seen in isolation, on Instagram, for instance. “When you’re standing in front of the painting, it’s a powerful experience—deeply sad, mournful.”

  40. Absolutely spot on Jerry. What the hell is wrong with these people? They seem hell bent on becoming the very thing they profess to fight against. Racists, fascists, xenophobes, censors, book-burners.

  41. I hadn’t heard of this before now therefore it seems that the fact that this painting was created has helped to spread awareness of just how terrible this young boy and others were treated back then. That can’t possibly be a bad thing. I understand that people are angered by this but if only a select group of people are allowed to talk about something then that will only increase racial segregation.

  42. I agree 100 percent with Jerry on this and wish I could have expressed it as well as he did.

    I had the pleasure of installing an extensive Dana Schutz exhibit at the Miami Art Museum (MAM) in 2012. I really liked some of the pieces, and really disliked some others. None were boring.

    1. What a terrific job you have. You get to preview, up close, what others must wait and pay for. 🙂

      1. Oh, I wish that kind of thing was my real job, but no such luck. I did fine art installations for a few years for museums, art shows and private collectors while things were slow with my real job. Sort of an experiment. Normally it would take years if ever to get to the level I was at, but I had a connection that got me started.

        It was interesting and fun. I’ve installed at Art Basel for significant galleries and some serious private collectors, and hobnobbed with serious players in the art scene. But it didn’t pay well enough compared to my real job and had me away from home a lot. If I could make enough I’d certainly consider a career change.

  43. I am a cheerful fan of cultural appropriation. Take the best of every other culture you meet and make it your own — and the wise will politely and leave behind the bits they don’t care for.

    But for those racist segregationists, such as Bright and Black, who would not “share and share alike,” I say: stop appropriating the culture of those whom you hate. And, indeed, why should you even want to taint your pure selves with such offensive fruits?

    I eagerly await their abnegation of imperialist white European cultural artifacts such as the English language, the electric lightbulb, and the indoor toilet.

    Indeed, I can’t help but notice that Bright appears to be wearing cotton clothes. Does he not realize that the process which separates the fibers from the seeds is not only a product of white European culture, but was the lynchpin economic factor that made profitable the slavery of his ancestors? Has he no shame?



  44. I have to take issue with the derogatory label “snowflake”. This has been used (and recently overused IMO) to describe anyone who disagrees with anything one considers to be trivial. Triviality is subjective. What looks like a non-issue to you may have a profoundly personal and deeply emotional significance to others.

    I also don’t like the term “political correct” as applied to certain words, phrases or points of view. “Political” infers that these things are based solely on some political ideology, when in fact, the correct term should refer to a sort of social taboo.
    We don’t avoid referring to people of colour as “niggers” because of some political reason. We don’t do it because it has become (rightfully so) socially unacceptable. Different words, phrases, etc. are socially acceptable or not to one degree or another. This has nothing to do with politics (with the caveat that being a social pariah may hinder ones getting elected), it’s a matter of interacting with society. So i always use “socially correct”.

    1. “Snowflake” seems to mean “more sensitive than me (and that’s a bad thing)”.

      “Politically correct” seems to mean “more concerned for the underprivileged than me (and that’s a bad thing)” – but more and more it means no more than “I don’t like it”.

  45. I don’t seem to be able to agree with anybody here. Wow! what a chorus of — may I say it? — political correctness. I salute the young man who blocked the view of the painting, for his restraint; I imagine he richly desired to put his boot through the damned thing. The artist is a ghoul and an opportunist. Neither he nor the young woman who objected in print are **Snowflakes**. Their revulsion and indignation are real and justified.
    There is no doubt that the artist has the right to paint the picture, the gallery has the right to exhibit it, both unmolested. But the public has the right to criticize and reject.
    Some years ago I visited an artist’s studio and saw a painting that showed the faces of vanished and murdered Aboriginal women (the fate of these women was, and still is, a matter of great concern in Western Canada. I can’t speak for Aboriginal People (I’m Caucasian, of the North-of-England strain), but the artist was as white as I am, and the painting kind of stank in my nostrils somewhat. I wondered how opportunistic his choice of subject was. My feeling over that picture must equal about one twenty-thousandth of the sick revulsion a Black man or woman must feel over this one.

    1. Your feelings are obviously both deep and sincere, but I simply cannot understand them. Many people have never heard of or have forgotten the tragedy of Emmett Till. This painting will reawaken this tragic event for most everyone who pays any attention to it. I can see nothing but good coming from it. Let us as a nation never forget what happened, and also remember that his murderers were found “not guilty” by an all white jury. Can only Black people memorialize this tragic young man, and remind this nation of what it did?

      1. Current move by the AG to revisit the Emmet Till Murder — was that triggered by the painting? No. The pain and fury haven’t gone away, because Black Activists haven’t let it. Dana Schutz’s daub is a sideshow.

        And by the way, a very bad painting, a complete failure, even by the generally low standards of current art. I’d give her fifty bucks for it; my toolshed needs a new roof.

        1. “The pain and fury haven’t gone away”. You would be amazed at how many people who did not experience an event are totally ignorant of it ever happening. A test: pick people at random (not your acquaintances) and ask them “who fought in the Civil War?” You will be appalled at the results.

          Many people have never heard of Emmett Till. This is absolutely shameful!! Regardless of the quality of the painting (and its evaluation is totally subjective – I admire it very much) it and the publicity surrounding it are going to bring the Emmett Till tragedy to the attention of thousands who knew absolutely nothing about it before. This is something we all should be thankful for.

        2. “And by the way, a very bad painting, a complete failure, even by the generally low standards of current art.”

          Translation: “I don’t like it and refuse to understand the point it’s making (even though the artist has explicitly pointed it out), therefore it’s bad art.”

    2. If you censor portrayals of the consequences of violence, you support that violence.

      It is much easier to demean the motives of the artist, than actually do anything about the subject of the art.

      1. Actually, I think the painting does just that — it censors the image that brings the violence home to us, blurs it, ameliorates it. I could look at it all day, just… rest my eyes on it. I could not look at the photograph of Emmet Till’s destroyed face for more than a few seconds. I will, however, return to it from time to time, to remind myself of what Black Activists are active about.

      2. Gene Roddenberry said he wished he could have been (when appropriate to the plot) more violent in Star Trek, because he thought that violence in movies and TV was faked to the point of misleading people through its dishonesty, especially (this coming from war veteran) war movies.

        1. I think times have changed, and the violence in movies (and some TV) is now so realistic that people have become numbed to it. People flock to enjoy bloodthirsty scenes quite as gory as any in the Colloseum (while still despising the Roman mobs).

          Of course in fantasy movies, including “action” movies, people’s ability to withstand violence is also absurdly high, so that people can enjoy watching unlimited violence without consequences.

          I think this is harmful to society.

          1. I feel the complete opposite. When I see gory, ultra-violent content, I know it’s not real and can enjoy it. I can separate the fiction from the real world. I’m known among my friends as someone who can watch movies others cannot.

            When I see even a bit of violence in the real world, I emotionally crumble.

    3. So, basically, people like you want white people to constantly speak out about atrocities committed against minorities, while also never speaking of those things. It’s always a lose-lose situation with people like you. You always find a way to denigrate those in groups you don’t like (based on ethnicity and culture, naturally — the things you say you want to stop) no matter what they do.

        1. Sure you are. You are the ultimate authority on art, culture, and the thoughts of other people’s minds. It’s a wonder you’re not president, considering the magical powers you have.

          1. BJ, please stop with this unnecessary criticism of readers personae. Please read the Roolz. We criticize ideas here, not people. I don’t want to see another nasty crack like this out of you, okay?

            1. And I apologize for breaking the rules. His refusal to engage with the ideas in the thread and post really got under my skin.

              Bur that’s absolutely no excuse.

    4. I understand your feelings to the extent that you perceive the artist to be exploiting the suffering of Till, rather than protesting it.

      But nobody can read the mind of the artist and know their motive.

      And a black artist can exploit Till’s suffering just as well as a white artist can. Nothing magical about rate generates sympathy and solidarity.

      1. The closest way to get to know the artist’s motive is to listen to what the artist says, and the artist says it was a protest and reminder. Ray would rather mind-read and say the artist was lying because that fits into his narrative and worldview, facts be damned.

      2. And a black artist can exploit Till’s suffering just as well as a white artist can.

        Indeed, I would suggest that Bright and Black have far more extensively and shamelessly exploited Till’s suffering than Schutz even hypothetically could.

        There’s a very simple test in this particular case to determine who is the humanitarian and who is the exploitive racist. Which is considered more significant: a person’s humanity or skin color?




  46. The snowflakes are partly to blame for muddying the waters of discourse here. So many trivial complaints, so much ignorant witch-hunting, make it hard for Minority people to protest when the offense is real.

    1. Yup. It’s the same thing with Trump. If we try to twist or exaggerate literally every single thing he says and does into an atrocity, people will take us less and less seriously, until we finally won’t be heard when speaking out against the real atrocities.

    2. “…make it hard for Minority people to protest…”

      You seem to have rather low regard for the abilities of minority people to protest real economic/political issues.

      1. I think what he means is, make it hard for minorities (or indeed anybody) to protest *effectively* because it gets swamped in the noise. Which is a valid point.

        Whether the protest which is the subject of this post, is a valid protest is a different issue.


      2. I think you misinterpreted what Ray was saying. He was merely opining that going nuts and protesting over every trivial non-issue will eventually numb people, so when they end up protesting real issues, they won’t be listening/will be far more likely to dismiss your protest as just another tantrum.

          1. Ah, you’re absolutely right. I didn’t realize the posts were from the same person. I now agree with your initial assessment and regret defending his post.

          2. Of course, regressives always do seem to suffer from the “soft racism of low expectations” for the groups for which they’re advocating and ostensibly protecting.

  47. As I said earlier, “people should be suitably rewarded for their creativity, but that is a different thing from restricting its use and development. When I see gory, ultra-violent content, I know it’s not real and can enjoy it.

  48. We are now taught to back into our respective corners and have nothing to do with other cultures. So, do not patronize ethnic restaurants if you are not of that culture. In fact, expel from and do not allow other cultures to inhabit your neighborhood. Keep everyone segregated to prevent any mixing of cultures. You see where this is going . . .

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