Wokeness in Art and Music

Daily the Marxists/Leftists/Communists among us infiltrate every aspect of our society.  Consequently,  "the individual shrinks in proportion as the state grows" yet the Left continues to work towards an alleged utopia even though "this 'ideal society' would be the graveyard of human greatness." 

Biden and Harris speak as if  "confused ideas and muddy ponds appear deep" when, in fact, they are empty rhetoric. As Nicolas Gomez Davila pointed out "stupidity is the mother of revolutionary atrocities; savageness is only the godmother" and  "the greatest modern error is not to proclaim that God died, but to believe that the devil has died."

The true sadness is that "violence is not necessary to destroy a civilization.  Each civilization dies from indifference toward the unique values which created it."  Hence, literature, history, statues, children's books, humor, film, art, and music are now under attack by those whose only aim is the total evisceration of America and her exceptional values.

Consequently, in the lunacy of wokeness,  how long will it be before Winslow Homer's images of blacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction years come under attack?  After all, Winslow Homer was a white man who dared to paint black figures during this tumultuous time period.

According to the exhibition text titled Winslow Homer's Images of Blacks: The Civil War and Reconstruction Years by Peter H. Wood and Karen C.C. Dalton, "[W]hen Winslow Homer displayed 'The Bright Side in New York City' in April 1865 -- only days after Lee's surrender and Lincoln's death -- black persons were still not allowed to enter the galleries of the National Academy of Design."  Clearly this was racism in full bloom and it would be a "full century before art depicting black people would appear on the walls of museums."

Yet, Winslow Homer's paintings of black America during this period "stood apart from the 'average artist's minstrel-show conception' of black people."

Although Homer called them his "darkey pictures" -- clearly offensive to modern ears, by "placing black children in the role of pupil and/or initiate, the artist was making allusions to the remedial training (both personal and political growth)" that was incumbent upon this new generation of emancipated black people.

Homer's black imagery introduced the changing attitude of America towards its black citizens.  In essence, art served as the nonverbal patina of how a society evolves.

But fast forward to woke America -- who will be the first Marxist-trained individual to claim that a white man has no right to paint black figures?  Who among the communist agitators will claim that the paintings of Homer, a reclusive New Englander, need be removed from art museums because a young white man born in 1836 could not possibly have any sensitivity to the issue of black servitude and discrimination in this country?  After all, the level of melanin one is born with is now the only gauge by which one is deemed a racist.

As a matter of fact, Critical Race Art History is currently taking center stage. Camara Dia Holloway states that "Critical Race Art History (CRAH) draws on the insights of social, feminist, and queer histories of art [as well as] critical race theory, postcolonial theory, and African diaspora studies…. that gained traction in the 1980s and 1990s  building on the scholarship of Derrick Bell and others."   

It should be noted that "the late Derrick Albert Bell, Jr. is considered... the godfather, of  'critical race theory,' an academic discipline which maintains that society is divided along racial lines into (white) oppressors and (black) victims, similar to the way Marxism frames the oppressor/victim dichotomy along class lines. Critical race theory contends that America is permanently racist to its core [.]"

But art is not the only discipline under attack from those who see everything through the lens of race. In the December 2020 First Things article titled "Colorblind and Tone-Deaf," author Bruno Chaouat writes how in November 2019, Hunter College professor Philip Ewell, "alleged the existence of elitism, color blindness, Eurocentrism, racism, and xenophobia in the field of music theory in North America.  Ewell's main target was Heinrich Schenker, an Austrian Jewish music theorist of the early 20th century who founded a school of classical music theory.  Ewell objected to the 'white racial frame' that dominates Schenkerian music theory."

According to Ewell "if racism is a structure, then the 'white racial frame' -- classical music in its European incarnation -- must be destroyed."  Instead, Ewell suggests that the "study of rap in music theory will result in promoting social justice by fostering awareness of racism."

As is so often the case with leftist thinking, the fact that rap lyrics are often violently anti-Semitic and sexist is ignored.  But since Jews are now construed as part of the power structure -- as white -- this means nothing to the Critical Race Theory proponents and those who crow about their anti-racist credentials.

In  "Promoting Equity: Developing an Antiracist music theory classroom" Dave Molk and Michelle Ohnona write that 

'Teaching Inequality: Problems with Traditional Music Theory Pedagogy' described how the near exclusive and yet unnecessary reliance on Western art music, institutionalized as white and as male, upholds white supremacy within the music theory classroom. In 'Promoting Equity,' we present strategies on how to begin disrupting [emphasis mine] this normalization of whiteness, starting with making it visible. We should think of this disruption as a process rather than a product -- antiracist describes actions, not states of being.

And with perfect activist virtue signaling, Dave Molk continues:

As a white man, speaking of whiteness in the effort to de-center it runs the seemingly paradoxical risk of re-centering whiteness. Even in the midst of calling out unearned privilege, I reap its benefits -- the presumed authority associated with this aspect of my identity ensures that my voice sounds louder and carries further than the majority of those who do not share it.

And yet, the problem of not speaking up is a form of complicity in the face of ongoing oppression. Calling attention to an injustice forces a decision from those who practice willful ignorance: a decision between confrontation and conscious evasion.

As whiteness becomes noticeable, it becomes noteworthy, and we can recognize its ubiquity as unnatural and intentional.

How would they explain their perspective to the many black composers whose compositional foundation was in the world of classical music, e.g., José Silvestre White, Florence B. White?

Chaouat writes that it should be remembered that "the barbarity of the [Nazi] SS system was characterized by the destruction of culture and by a language that had lost its syntax, a language of chaos and noise and bestial immediacy.  Restoring civilization meant, among other things, retrieving language as a mediated form of communication."

In reality,

Both identity and politics have played major roles in musical expression throughout history, but 'identity politics' in the music theory field today is not about revealing how they are communicated in the music. Instead, it has become a belief that there is a fixed amount of intellectual space in the music theory world, and that fixed space has too many white males in it. It is a belief that the only way to achieve equity in music theory is to silence not just 'problematic' voices but to diminish entire 'problematic' modes of thinking. This is a false and immoral belief.

There should not be any limit to the ideas we can explore, nor should there be any arbiters suppressing them. With calls like these, however, leftists once again reveal they do want limits on ideas, and they do want suppression of the 'problematic' ones. That is because they enjoy being the suppressors.

When juxtaposed against the wanton ravaging of artistic creations, i.e., statues, and the increasing meaningless of language, it becomes crystal clear that those who destroy the cultural icons care not a whit for the sensitivities and nuances of historical evolution and artistic creativity.  They should be called out in every venue and exposed for their disingenuousness and their malevolence.

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com

Image: Winslow Homer

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