CUNY Student: Emmett Till Opera is One of White Guilt

CUNY Student: Emmett Till Opera is One of White Guilt

CUNY Student: Emmett Till Opera is One of White Guilt

From the halls of our college campuses comes this the from CUNY. A student at John Jay College wants to cancel the Emmett Till opera from its existence on campus.

Why? Well, it’s racist. Not because Emmett Till was brutally murdered from flirting with a white woman in 1955. But because “Emmett Till, A New American Opera” was written by a white, female playwright by the name of Clare Coss who is somehow atoning for her white guilt with this production. Emmett Till was taken from his family home in 1955 after the alleged incident:

The injustice of the brutal murder of Mr. Till fueled the Civil Rights movement. But CUNY student, Mya Bishop, alleged the opera frames the tragedy through the eyes of a “fictional progressive white woman”. The production illustrates the tragic event framed through the eyes of a white school teacher. From the petition:

The play will center a fictional white school teacher named Roanne Taylor, who was supposedly “progressive” and “against Jim Crow and racial inequality.

Clare Coss has creatively centered her white guilt by using this play to make the racially motivated brutal torture and murder of a 14-year-old child about her white self and her white feelings.”-Mya Bishop, CUNY, Change.org

More about Clare Coss, a white, liberal academic:

Clare Coss is a playwright, psychotherapist and activist, convinced that we have it in our power to create a just and safe world. “As a playwright my tools are character and dialogue, conflict and story. “My imagination often leads to women characters who go where the silence is. They are drawn to confront inaction and/or tyranny; face the challenge to speak and act for justice and dignity.” ln 1971 the Berkshire Theatre Festival gave Coss her first full production – The Star Strangled Banner (the U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1848). Her plays include Growing Up Gothic (Theatre for the New City), The Blessing (American Place Theatre), Our Place in Time (Women’s Project), Lillian Wald: At Home on Henry Street (New Federal Theatre), Dr. Du Bois and Miss Ovington (New Federal Theatre), and Emmett, Down in My Heart (TADA!; Castillo).

The opera at CUNY is certainly not the first time Coss, part of the CUNY Humanities crew, capitalized on the lynching of Emmett Till. Coss also is a published author, to include an anthology of lesbian love poems. She is a member The League of Professional Theatre Women, PEN, The Dramatists Guild, and the Columbia University Seminar on Women and Society. She is picture perfect white academia in a nutshell. Picture perfect, I might add. More from CUNY student, Mya Bishop:

Tickets from this play range from 20 to 1000 dollars, allowing for profit to be made from the tragic torture and murder of a child whose perpetrators still haven’t faced any consequences.

Of course, if any profit were to be made, it would only be appropriate for that profit to be given to the family of Emmett Till. However, even if the profit was turned over to them, it wouldn’t make the play any less disrespectful.”--Mya Bishop, CUNY, Change.org

Hmm. And where are the profits from this portrayal going? And more:

Clare Coss is out of line for taking it upon herself to turn Black trauma into entertainment and for exploiting a Black tragedy to propel her career and relieve her of her guilt about her whiteness.”--Mya Bishop, CUNY, Change.org

I mean, at first look at this, one might ask why cancel a story that brings to light the vast injustices that were part of our messy history? As crazy and outlandish as this CUNY student’s petition seems to be, I would say Mya Bishop has a point. Here is Clare Coss profiting off of the tragedy faced by a black family and community in 1955. Here is Clare Coss focusing this tragedy on the perspectives of white America, a white academic, like herself. Of course, the white teacher in all of this is playing the protagonist, questioning and fighting the injustices of this brutality. The story is centered around her playing a hero. And Clare Coss, just like Robin DiAngelo, will happily take this all to her bank.

Seemingly centering herself, Coss stated that Till’s death significantly impacted her while she was a student at Louisiana State University Baton Rouge campus. She said she felt “compelled” to ‘keep telling Emmett’s story.’

Ok, girl.”-Keka Araújo, Black Enterprise

“Ok, girl”, is right.

In 1992, I awoke one morning with a spiritual mandate to write a play about Emmett Till. I approached writing about him through my conviction that this tragedy is shared in the way the tragic history of this country is shared. White people as perpetrators and witnesses of white supremacy have a stake in this story. I want people to understand that it was not so long ago.

Emmett Till is in our lifetime. He is in MY lifetime. I want people to understand the grave parallels between the world over 60 years ago to today’s world, from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin to Daunte Wright. It is still happening, and we must continue to shed light on these stories. I am reminded of Mamie Till-Mobley’s words, ‘The world must see what was done to my son. The world must help me tell the story.’ And so we will.”-Clare Coss

A spiritual mandate, eh? Yeah, Coss, go ahead and throw in Trayvon and Daunte in the mix, too. But Coss, and her other fellow academics at CUNY and other institutions of higher learning, always circle back to make this about themselves. Her name is still in the spotlight of credits of Emmett Till. A fictional, white woman takes the spotlight in this opera. College campuses, led by other fellow white academics for the most part, fund this stuff.

Till’s death is synonymous with the very plague that continues to harm Black people. Instead of insisting on telling our stories, maybe progressive white people would fare better centering the atrocities of their people without involving us.”-Keka Araújo, Black Enterprise

Can I get an Amen?

There’s the severe sound of the reverb of the left turning in on itself. This opera gracing the stage at CUNY. My guesses regarding Clare Coss? The University will sell that $1,000-dollar ticket to another white, liberal, “social justice” grifter. White liberal jackasses in the audience will watch, lecture their Conservative friends and family members about how much more educated they are on “racial inequality” while they zoom right past some of the more marginalized neighborhoods in New York City without lifting a finger or feeling any sense of urgency to help. They did their duty. They watched an opera about racism written by a white woman from the perspective of a white woman’s guilt. Meanwhile, Coss will take most of the proceeds and not feel the least built guilty. Because justice.

As the saying go, Ms. Coss, read the room. Check your privilege.

Photo Credit: LunaWeb/FlickR/Creative Commons/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0/Cropped

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3 Comments
  • Cameron says:

    I’m just going to sit this out and watch them eat each other.

  • If I were the Till family, I would be more insulted by the lumping of their son with two violent criminals.

    I’m part Irish, and would be very insulted were I to be associated in people’s minds with a vicious person like Patrick Murphy (alias Frank Carter) – who murdered several people in Omaha, Nebraska in the mid-1920s.

  • GWB says:

    exploiting a Black tragedy to propel her career and relieve her of her guilt about her whiteness.
    This comes up over and over again. “[H]er whiteness”. I think Maya might be a racist. She seems entirely focused on this other woman’s race, to the exclusion of all else, even to the point of it obscuring any other possible points about this ‘opera’.

    Seemingly centering herself
    We call this a “Mary Sue”. Where the author puts themselves into the story as the pure, virtuous hero.

    from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin to Daunte Wright
    /singing to the Sesame Street tune/ “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things does not belong…”.

    would fare better centering the atrocities of their people without involving us
    Word salad. And nonsense, too.

    I think all the people in this little tale need to check themselves. They’re all over-educated imbeciles who think their “knowledge” makes them morally superior. If it weren’t so detrimental to our society right now because of the power these idiots have, this would be fun to watch them chow down on each other.

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