HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Along the same line as the textbook post below, Clayton Cramer points me to a post by Eric Muller that recounts an experience with real discrimination during a historical re-enactment at Colonial Williamsburg. I've been to CW before and found it mildly interesting, mainly because of the attention to historical details. However, is it appropriate to discriminate among visitors by race and religion so that they can get a feel for what past discrimination was actually like?

Then the bailiff explained that the members of the panel of justices would have to meet the requirements of the period—they would have to be white, male, Protestant, over a certain age (I don't remember what it was), and land owners. Then he said, “the law at the time would have required you to swear an anti-papist oath too, but”—and here he broke into a broad smile—“we're not going to push it that far.” Many in the crowd laughed.

Then he asked for volunteers. He must have noticed the enthusiasm in my face, because he specifically pointed to me and asked if I wanted to participate. I was confused—had all of that stuff about the requirements for serving been a joke? He said nothing that indicated he wasn't serious. And he'd even said that there was an eighteenth-century requirement that they weren't enforcing—the anti-papist oath—so that led me to think that maybe they were serious about the other ones. Anyway, I answered him that I didn't meet the requirements. (I'm Jewish.) “Thanks for being honest,” he said, and then turned to get other volunteers.

The point could have been made without enforcing the discriminatory rules, and would certainly have raised fewer eyebrows... but was this actual discrimination or what? Was it wrong? I can't quite put my finger on it.

Clayton Cramer mentions that in the past, black employees at CW were said to be playing the role of "servents" rather than "slaves" for fear of offending anyone, but that particular change seems very revisionist to me. It's one thing to hire actors to play historically accurate parts that involve discrimination, but it's quite another to impose racism on visitors for the sake of accuracy. The Holocaust Museum here in Los Angeles doesn't require Jewish guests to sew yellow stars onto the clothing when they enter, for example.



Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info