Race and culture: where to draw the line?

The tragedy of George Floyd’s murder and outraged worldwide reaction to it has got me thinking. With statues being torn down and cultural icons with xenophobic tendencies potentially blacklisted where does that leave Jews and guilt over ‘enjoying’ or performing the work of those who would sanction anti-Semitism? Wagner, obviously, one of the greatest composers of all time whose rabid and loudly voiced prejudice has in no way discouraged great Jewish musicians from espousing the Wagnerian cause – think of Mahler (whose Wagner even Hitler defended against Viennese anti-Semites), Friedrich Schorr, Erich Leinsdorf, Georg Solti, George London, Alexander Kipnis, George Szell, James Levine, Artur Bodanzky, Artur Rodzinski, Fritz Reiner, Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Semyon Bychkov? The list goes on and on. And Wagner is merely the most obvious target. If Jews themselves can separate the man from his work, often stepping up to perform his music with sovereign command, then maybe that’s where the higher ground lies. Were we to try and identify all racists active in the upper reaches of our society, past and present, we’d have a job and a half on our hands. Current actions against ethnic minorities – yes, bang ‘em up is what I say. But to outlaw from our culture all those who have in the past harboured prejudice, either privately or publicly, would be to deprive ourselves of countless good, even great works. Views please?

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