But, wait: Maybe — and I know this is a radical thought — artists, whether high or low, should be able to work in whatever artistic fields they want to work in. Maybe they should even be able to work in those fields regardless of their skin color or the place from which their ancestors came.
Maybe telling people that they can’t work in some field because they have the wrong color or ancestry would be … rats, I don’t know what to call it. If only there were an adjective that could be used to mean “telling people that they mustn’t do something, because of their race or ethnic origin.”
As to the blackface analogy that the article offers, the objection to blackface is that it originated as mockery of blacks, and is generally understood as continuation of such mockery. When white woman are “dressed in Orientalist garb with eye makeup caked on for full kohl effect and glittery accessories” — or for that matter, when people who aren’t of European extraction wear traditionally European formal clothing to play classical music, or non-European ballet dancers dress in European costumes — they aren’t trying to mock or belittle the group whose garb they are using. Rather, they are doing what performers have done throughout history: dressing the part.
A pretty appalling article, then, on Salon’s part. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit) for the pointer.
(Note: I realize that Yo-Yo Ma, whose photo I give above, was born in Europe. But the argument in the Salon article, which talks of “Arab women and brown women” as entitled to belly dance and “white women” as not entitled, is based on place of ancestry, not place of birth. And in any event, of course I think that even Chinese artists who were born in China and who live in China are just as entitled to play Beethoven as is anyone else. Note also that the article’s argument is quite different from a purely aesthetic argument that some performance doesn’t work because the performer doesn’t visually look authentic, or even — what I think is much less defensible, even aesthetically — because the performer’s background interferes with the perceived authenticity of the work. The article makes a moral claim, not a personal aesthetic judgment.)