Students at the University of Pennsylvania have removed a portrait of Shakespeare from its Fisher-Bennett Hall and have replaced it with a picture of a black lesbian poet Audre Lorde in the name of “diversity.”
According to the Daily Pennsylvanian, a group of students removed the portrait and placed it in the office of English Department chairman Jed Esty after a department “town hall meeting discussing the election” on December 1. The Penn reports that the department had actually voted to replace the Shakespeare painting for “diversity” reasons several years ago, but that nothing had been done about it until after that specific meeting.
First of all, let me say that I am not anti-black, anti-lesbian, anti-poet, or anti-black-lesbian-poet. But I have to ask: Just what good does it do to remove the portrait of Shakespeare? No doubt, diversity is important, and decorating the building’s halls with portraits of writers from various backgrounds is a good idea. But does that mean that a portrait of one of the world’s most important literary figures has to be removed? Why not just add the Lorde portrait somewhere else?
#related#This is especially true considering the fact that the portrait of Shakespeare just looked better in that space than the portrait of Lorde does. No, I am not saying that white people look better than black people, or that straight people look better than gay people. What I am saying is, if you compare the pictures of each portrait in that specific space, the portrait of Lorde 1) looks too small and 2) also appears to be just a group of printed-out parts of her face taped together. Do these kids really hate Shakespeare so much that they couldn’t even wait to get an actual portrait of another author to hang up before shoving his portrait in an office somewhere?
Yes: Shakespeare was a straight, white, male; but the fact is, despite having had these deplorable traits, he also just so happens to be an incredibly important literary figure. Celebrating Shakespeare and celebrating authors of diverse backgrounds are not mutually exclusive, and acting like Shakespeare is not worth studying or celebrating is doing a huge disservice to these students.