Sunday, May 23, 2021

Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

In response to my Missive “Ethics and Philanthropy" ...

A friend wrote, “At what stage of infamy do you reject gifts? If made anonymously, that is that you will not be celebrating the donor with a name on a wall or some such, would that make a difference?”

The dictionary definition of Political Correctness is, “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

From that definition I believe it has been taken to an extreme. Why? If we try to make up for lost time by making sure our Boards of Directors are diverse and our museums have a serious selection of art from formerly ignored other cultures and we continue to make up for our errors of the past these actions are positive. But we should not collect trustees, artists or any other category just because they are of another culture, they need to be qualified otherwise we have defeated the purpose of diversity, and all will be ill served. It also makes no sense to me to eliminate history in the process for then we will just have dismissed the past and not stood up to it.

I recently read the following in a notice from a Bard Graduate Center Bulletin: “Jonathan Michael Square will present his research on Brooks Brothers’ connections to slavery. Brooks Brothers was founded in 1818 and, in the first few decades of its operation, provided merchandise to elite gentlemen as well as livery for their domestics. Some of those domestics were enslaved people. In this talk, Square will use two Brooks Brothers coats worn by enslaved men as a point of departure to explore the history of this “heritage” brand.” Are we now trying to denigrate the men’s store that went into bankruptcy a few years ago? To what purpose?

I sent the Bard announcement to a female friend abroad who replied, “This really takes the cake. I mean, REALLY! Will they, then, blame shoemakers who shod the “enslaved persons”? And right down the line? Passemanterie makers who produced the braid on their liveries? Brooks Bros. also made Abraham Lincoln’s clothes (and the Kennedys’, and Andy Warhol, et al. and some Northern Civil War generals. Every man in my life swore by Brooks Bros., even if none dressed exclusively there.

I guess I will never get my name on a gallery because I bought my underwear, pajamas and suits from them for many years. Originally, on the advice (insistence) from my ex-mother-in-law!

A positive side of Political Correctness was recently demonstrated by the Metropolitan Museum in recognition of a lost fact of history they announced: “Met Installs Plaque Honoring Lenape People – The Metropolitan Museum of Art has installed a bronze plaque on its Fifth Avenue facade to honor and recognize the Lenape, the Indigenous people who owned the land on which the museum sits. Recognizing that it is in the homeland of the Lenape diaspora, Lenapehoking, it reads: “We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, and future—for their ongoing and fundamental relationships to the region."

“The Lenape tribe is known for their Native American beadwork and basketry products. Like other eastern Native Americans, the Leni Lenape also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. This beadwork was originally culturally important as adornment, but it became used as a means of trade with Europeans.”

“Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency.” Does that sound familiar? Bitcoin, a few hundred years later?

Hope I have left you thinking!

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