Founders’ Day performances need not be politically correct
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Some Controversy arose after this year’s Founders’ Day skit, which was put together by Dr. Mariko Sato Berger with the help of some students. The purpose of the skit is to tell the story of Townsend Harris, especially of his adventures as the first Consul General to the Empire of Japan and how he founded our school.
This year, the plan for Founders’ Day was to include a scene from the Civil War, which was about to break out when Townsend Harris was returning from his stay in Japan.
The objective was to put Townsend Harris’ journey in context so that students would have a better idea of the time period in which Townsend Harris lived.
The source of the controversy was a reenactment of a scene from the 1939 film, Gone with the Wind. Despite being hugely popular, winning ten academy awards and becoming the highest-earning film up to that point, the movie faces criticism for being racist and glorifying the South. This created some concern over whether it was a good idea to put a scene from the movie into the skit. The scene that was reenacted, however, did not have the slightest bit of racism in it, nor did it glorify the South in any way.
In fact, the whole scene was meant to portray the Civil War negatively. The character Ashley Wilkes, played by senior Yuriy Markovetskiy, says in this scene, “Most of the miseries of the world were caused by wars. And, when the wars were over, no one ever knew what they were about.”
Rhett Butler, played by junior Isaac So, says in response to a nationalistic Confederate soldier, “All we’ve got is cotton and slaves, and arrogance.” The scene that was chosen was very pro-Union.
The Confederate flag, another point of controversy, was used only to make the setting more obvious to the audience. Moreover, because the flag that was used was the official flag of the Confederacy, and not the more controversial and notorious Confederate Navy Jack, it was not meant to be purposefully offensive.
Political correctness can often harm expression and education because it keeps our minds from being open to the message that other people are trying to convey. It forces us to jump to rash conclusions without hearing the actual content that is being expressed.
In many cases, the anti-war theme of the scene was missed because people were too focused on the controversy surrounding the film and the flag without thinking about what they were being used for.
Reducing the hypersensitivity surrounding issues of political correctness would allow for greater freedom in education regarding things like the history of the South during the Civil War. It might be hard, but by avoiding an immediate emotional response to something we disagree with and having a civil discussion instead, we can form more thoughtful and rational opinions on the latest issues.