Misunderstandings About Censorship
Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled “Censorship Rears Its Ugly Head at Santa Monica College, Over a Play About Slavery” by Times columnist Robin Abcarian. The article provides a good opportunity to analyze the concept of censorship in the context of government-owned or government-subsidized colleges and universities.
The theater arts department at Santa Monica College in California produced a play entitled “By the River Rivanna,” which revolved around the issue of slavery in pre-Civil War America. Abcarian reviewed the written version of the play and concluded that it was a “provocative story about a successful, Ivy League-educated young Black man who has long repressed his family’s traumatic enslaved past and begins to have disturbing dreams about his Yoruba ancestors.”
Other people, however, were offended by aspects of the play, such as a sexual relationship that a slave has with a plantation owner. Protests against the play were launched. School administrators became fearful that protests could turn violent. It decided to prohibit the play from being shown on campus.
The school’s decision to shut down the play caused Abcarian to respond with the predictable ter
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