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As former editors of The Michigan Daily, we view the incident of Professor Bright Sheng as a sad loss for all concerned. Its only redeeming feature is the light it sheds on the consequences of unappeasable wokeness.

Sheng should have realized that Laurence Olivier’s hideous blackface portrayal of “Othello” would shock and enrage students who were not warned. But, his immediate and sincere apology should have been accepted, at least after some calm and clarifying discussion. He has no documented history of racist actions and he did not intentionally aim to insult anyone. His own history as a victim of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and prior actions as a mentor and supporter of musicians of color are relevant, even if he expressed them a little awkwardly.

In rejecting Sheng’s apology, many students lost an invaluable opportunity to learn from a distinguished musician — one of the enormous benefits of attending a great university like the University of Michigan. The administration, instead of supporting a colleague, defending academic freedom and seizing a natural teaching moment, chose to grovel at the altar of vengeful political correctness that exacerbates racial tension and freezes honest inquiry, growth and learning. 

Refusal to distinguish between racism and occasional lapses by well-intentioned people is one of several fatal flaws of the current malignant wokeness. Like jealousy, the “green-eyed monster” of Othello, implacable wokeness “doth mock the meat it feeds on.” 

In capitulating to students’ demands that they guarantee an impossible standard of “safety” from emotional discomfort and summarily punish all accused offenders, colleges and universities across the country betray their primary obligation to genuine education. We are very sorry to see our alma mater join the cowardly throng.

Editor’s Note: On Oct. 31, members of faculty circulated an open letter demanding Sheng be reinstated with a public apology issued from the University on his behalf. Read more here

Judy Oppenheim Olinick and Michael Olinick graduated from the College of Literature, Science & the Arts in 1963. Judy was The Michigan Daily’s Editorial Director and Michael was the Editor in Chief for 1962-63. They can be reached at and, respectively.