02 Jul 2017

What She Said!

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Theater critic Hedy Weiss

Kyle Smith, at National Review, reflects on the over-the-top reaction from Chicago theatrical circles to some modest remarks in defense of the local police by one of the windy cities leading critics.

In Chicago, where there were more homicides last year than in Los Angeles and New York City combined, expressing any support whatsoever for the police is now considered an outrage. Should you point out that, say, a play seems to suggest cops are evil crackers, you may find yourself denounced as a racist and targeted for abuse and ostracization.

A theater writer has just found that out. In what the website American Theatre dubbed “the review that shook Chicago,” adding in a subhead that “Local theatre artists rise in revolt,” veteran theater critic Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized a new play called Pass Over, which I haven’t seen but is being described as a kind of update of Waiting for Godot filtered through the sensibility of Black Lives Matter. The play, by Antoinette Nwandu, was mounted by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, perhaps the most celebrated outfit of its kind outside of New York City. Weiss found its racial politics to be a bit reductionist, and offered these thoughts in her review:

    No one can argue with the fact that this city (and many others throughout the country) has a problem with the use of deadly police force against African-Americans. But, for all the many and varied causes we know so well, much of the lion’s share of the violence is perpetrated within the community itself. Nwandu’s simplistic, wholly generic characterization of a racist white cop (clearly meant to indict all white cops) is wrong-headed and self-defeating. Just look at news reports about recent shootings (on the lakefront, on the new River Walk, in Woodlawn) and you will see the look of relief when the police arrive on the scene.

Cue unbridled rage. Steppenwolf charged her with “deep-seated bigotry.” An actor named Bear Bellinger announced that he would not perform if Weiss showed up at a workshop production he was appearing in. An ad-hoc coalition that might as well have dubbed itself the Blackball Hedy Movement (but is actually called the Chicago Theater Accountability Coalition, or CTAC) launched a petition via change.org to organize the theater world of Chicago against Weiss by denying her invitations to its plays. Several theater organizations have publicly agreed to join the blackballing effort, and dozens have offered noncommittal statements of support. The group’s broadside against Weiss reads, “Over the last few years especially, we have joined together to make it clear that inappropriate language or behavior does not have a place within our community, and that prejudice of any kind will not stand.”

Wait a minute — inappropriate behavior? Inappropriate language? Weiss cannot reasonably be accused of either of these things. She isn’t disrupting plays. She isn’t using curse words and slurs in her reviews. She isn’t, as far as I know, belching loudly during shows nor unwrapping candies during quiet moments. CTAC should be honest with itself and admit that its charge against Weiss is that she is thinking inappropriate thoughts. It was less than two years ago that Steppenwolf mounted a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. Do these people not recognize their kinship with the thought police? Do they not see that “Shut up” is not an argument?

To join the Hedy Weiss Resistance seems self-defeating on the one hand and pointless on the other — she could, after all, simply buy tickets to the plays, and pass along the cost to her employers (the Sun-Times pledged such support in its editorial defending her). Moreover, if she actually were successfully kept away from plays in Chicago, those plays would lose the publicity fillip of being written about in a widely read newspaper.

And what part of Weiss’s review is indefensible? Is not most of the violence perpetrated against blacks in Chicago, and elsewhere, carried out by other blacks? Of course it is. I won’t bother to cite statistics because everyone knows this. Do not ordinary law-abiding black citizens respond with relief when mayhem is answered by the arrival of police? To say otherwise would be to charge black communities with valuing bloodshed more than order. As for whether the portrayal of the cop in the play is meant to indict all police officers, or whether that portrayal is simplistic and generic, I couldn’t say, not having seen the play. But expressing opinions on the depth and subtlety of a play is what all theater critics do. …

The theater world is a place where being “subversive” and “transgressive” are considered the highest of all virtues. But what’s going on in Chicago is a reminder is that greasepaint revolutionaries can barely handle even mild intellectual opposition. They picture themselves riding bravely into the battlefield of ideas. But if anyone shows up to fight for the other side, they cry meekly, “Excuse me, I don’t think you’re allowed here.”

5 Feedbacks on "What She Said!"

Steve Gregg

There are about 8000 gun homicides in America every year. While blacks are 13% of the population, they commit over half of those homicides, four times their relative numbers. Ninety percent of those murders are of other blacks, about 3600.

By contrast, about 170 black people are killed by the cops every year. Let’s assume that the cops have the same criminal intent in killing blacks as the Bloods and Crips in shooting their fellow blacks. That still means that blacks kill blacks at twenty times the rate that cops do. Who is the greatest killer of blacks, then? Blacks. Yet, black and liberal racists declare this fact taboo. It’s long past time for some honesty on race and to place the facts on the table for all to see.

Heather MacDonald dissected cop on black killings in “The War On Cops,” which is well worth your time. She points out that of the 170 black men shot dead by the police, 70% were initiated when the black men opened fire on the cops. So, who is attacking whom, here? This statistic alone puts the lie to the racist claim that cops are shooting blacks willy nilly.

That leaves 50 black men who did not open fire. However, some of them were shot dead after attacking the cops without guns. If you ram a cop with your car and are shot dead for your effort, then you are counted as an unarmed black man killed by cops. Likewise, many black criminals attack cops with fists and feet or other improvised weapons. Many attack cops with their own equipment, such as guns, batons, handcuffs, etc. If you punch a cop in the face, grab at his gun to kill him with it, and get shot dead for your effort, you are considered an innocent black man shot dead by the police, like Michael Brown in Ferguson.

So, of the remaining fifty, let’s say half are shot for such attacks without guns. The numbers are not published, so I have to guess. That leaves 25 blacks shot by the police.

Some innocent blacks are shot inadvertently by the police during gunfights. For example, one black criminal opened fire on the cops from his car. His black girlfriend, sitting next to him, was killed in the return fire. In another case, a black criminal opened fire on the cops and an innocent black man walking down the side of the road was shot dead in the return fire.

I recall a case years ago when a black florist in Dallas called 911 about a robbery. He put down the phone, picked up a gun, and chased the robber around the back of the building. A cop, responding to the call, was running around the other side of the building when he encountered the armed florist, mistook him for the robber, and shot him dead.

So, that leaves a handful of bad shootings, less than 25, maybe a dozen, which is about what you would expect in a nation the size of America. From those few examples, blacks and liberals have conjured up an imaginary cop pogrom against blacks as big as the real black on black pogrom that murders more black people every year than the KKK did in its entire existence.


A couple of other points: some of those blacks are shot by black cops, and as far as I can recall from reading the papers, the cops also shoot white folks when the situation requires. Blacks are often their own worst enemies and the BLM movement is a glaring example of that.

Steve Gregg

Cactus jack,

Heather MacDonald points out that the stats are the same for black police forces as white police forces, namely the Detroit and Ryker’s Island police who are predominantly black. So, it’s not race, it’s behavior.

Spurt Reynolds

Chicago is quickly becoming the next Detroit. Get out now while you have a chance!


She hit the nail on the head. It is all about portraying all whites as racist. The irony is that racism for most whites is a thing of the past while racism for blacks is off the scale. BLM is a racist organization that promoted and encourages violence and should be targeted by the police and courts to reign it in.


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