If you’re a Saturday Night Live fan, you’ll surely remember the old King Tut routine of Steve Martin. In case you don’t, here it is, about forty years old now:
According to both New Jersey 101.5 and The Atlantic, the video was somehow played in class as a joke at Reed College in Oregon. BIG mistake! The group Reedies against Racism (RAR), which is famous for disrupting the Humanities 101 course, calling it racist and an enabler of white supremacy, took huge offense at the video. As The Atlantic reports (my emphasis):
At Reed College, a small liberal-arts school in Portland, Oregon, a 39-year-old Saturday Night Live skit recently caused an uproar over cultural appropriation. In the classic Steve Martin skit, he performs a goofy song, “King Tut,” meant to satirize a Tutankhamun exhibit touring the U.S. and to criticize the commercialization of Egyptian culture. You could say that his critique is weak; that his humor is lame; that his dance moves are unintentionally offensive or downright racist. All of that, and more, was debated in a humanities course at Reed.
But many students found the video so egregious that they opposed its very presence in class. “That’s like somebody … making a song just littered with the n-word everywhere,” a member of Reedies Against Racism (RAR) told the student newspaper when asked about Martin’s performance. She told me more: The Egyptian garb of the backup dancers and singers—many of whom are African American—“is racist as well. The gold face of the saxophone dancer leaving its tomb is an exhibition of blackface.”
RAR needs to get a grip. If you can get this offended by an innocuous comedy routine, seeing ancient Egyptian clothing as “racist” and the gold face of the saxophone player, clearly meant to represent the gold “death mask” of Tut and other Pharaohs, as “blackface”, you’ve lost the plot. The “activism” of RAR, though of course driven by motivations we all agree with—the elimination of racist bigotry—seems limited to scrutinizing everything in their school for possible offense and then calling it out. Seriously, is equating gold face paint to “blackface” a way to expunge racism from America?
Watch the video (it’s only 3 minutes) and judge for yourself.