Community Responses to Wendy MacLeod’s “The Good Samaritan”

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Prior to the cancellation of Wendy Macleod’s new play, “The Good Samaritan,” The Thrill reached out to Kenyon community members to see if they had any comments on play. Though the play has been cancelled, we believe that the statements we received are still worth sharing. We still encourage students come to the event tomorrow at 11:10 a.m. in the Hill Theater, which will now center on the issues raised by the script.


Student-info email from Adelante Latinx Student Association

Hello,

I am forwarding you this email to call to your attention Professor Wendy MacLeod’s “play.”

I personally take issue with The Good Samaritan because it’s yet another narrative written about a person of color from the uninformed perspective of a white academic. Because of this, the representation of the Guatemalan boy Hector is careless at best and harmful on many levels. I’ve read through the play and it seems to me that Professor MacLeod was more invested in writing a provocative story starring white characters rather than doing justice to the arduous experiences of Guatemalan and Latin American youths who are forced to immigrate north. The characterization of Hector makes no logical sense and reduces him to a plot device that can be molded in any which way to create “comedy” between the white characters who are given most of the dialogue and attention. This isn’t a production about the experience of a Guatemalan boy who has persevered against national laws and social factors which criminalize and dehumanize his very existence, this is a an exercise in cultural hegemony with heavy notes of white savior complex.

Another aspect of this project I take issue with is Professor Wendy MacLeod’s request that Adelante member Lesly Maldonado volunteer to check the play’s Spanish language and grammar, which sometimes seems like broken pseudo-Italian rather than Spanish, as well as her email to me stating she is “eager to talk to Latino students who have lived through the experience of immigration.”

These types of actions contribute to the negative experiences that people of color, especially Latinx students, have to face at places like Kenyon. We are burdened with these misrepresentations since, as student leaders, we are implicitly asked to counter such harmful narratives and whats worse, we are explicitly asked by a faculty member to take part in the intellectual and emotional labor of engaging with said harmful representations for the sake of “getting it right.”

Adelante: Latinx Student Association met today and the response to this play was overwhelmingly negative. We are not interested in helping a white playwright tweak her insensitive and harmful narrative to get it right. There would be nothing to “get right” if the drama department at Kenyon actually valued diversity by putting on shows written by Latinx or Latin American playwrights who authentically represent Latinx identities and experiences.

I ask that you look into this matter thoughtfully and thoroughly and help stop the harmful insensitive misrepresentation of Latinx individuals for the sake of the academic and social wellbeing of the Latinx students at Kenyon.

Isa Bird ’18

I am so proud of the students of color in this school doing everything in their power and much more to protect their peers and advocate for their communities’ right to respect, recognition, and inclusion in this school and country. I am so proud to be able to call myself a part of them. But the full burden of the violences against us should not just fall on our shoulders; this school (students, faculty, and administration) needs to do better for its students of color and challenge who “freedom of speech”, invoked as the reason this play is still standing, really serves and protects.

Jacky Neri Arias ’13 Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

As an administrator in Student Affairs, I am in a difficult position to support students, but also be loyal to the college. There is an added layer of complexity when you consider that I am a recent alum who shares some identities of one of the supposed main characters in the play, Hector. I am a Latina immigrant from a low-income family. Throughout the last few days and after several conversations with faculty, administrators, students, and alumni, I’ve had a few realizations that helped me clarify my position at Kenyon as well as reaffirm my identity. I will not sit back silently when I recognize that something harmful is happening in my place of work and alma mater. I was hired specifically to support underrepresented students at this campus who have historically been marginalized, silenced, forgotten. Being loyal to the students IS being loyal to Kenyon because that is the job I was hired for. While the play “The Good Samaritan” might be shielded by academic freedom, we (Latinxs students, employees, alumni) also have the right to express the harm the play has caused us. Do not let anyone negate your experience or try to justify racist, anti-immigrant language with good intentions. To my fellow Latinx Kenyon community, do not let this keep consuming your energy and mental health, but please seek out support if you need to process the recent events. I’m open to meeting with any student who wants to discuss the play in my office, in Peirce, in your student groups, etc.

Clara Román-Odio Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature

If I were to add anything, it would be that, to me, this is a matter of individual conscience and of making a decision to raise one’s voice, or not, in the face of actions that wrong the other, whomever that other may be. The note I shared on Sunday night arose from this belief and more importantly from a sense of moral obligation to stand in solidarity with, and support of, our Latinx students. Whether this helps or not to change anyone’s way of thinking about the other, that is beyond my sphere of influence.

Margaree Little 2016-2018 Kenyon Review Fellow in Poetry

Dear members of the Kenyon community,

As a writer and teacher of creative writing at Kenyon, I am writing to express my support of and solidarity with the members of Adelante and others in the Kenyon community who have spoken out about Wendy MacLeod’s play, The Good Samaritan, which she circulated over email on January 25th.

This play is unapologetically racist and mocking. It is not a work of literature, and it is certainly not a comedy and a “force for change,” as MacLeod described it. It is an act of violence, dehumanizing and degrading the suffering that immigrants endure in coming to this country, and the many acts of racism and violence that members of the Latinx community endure every day, including on this campus.

I am further chagrined by the President’s January 30th statement regarding the play, which situated it within the framework of “freedom of expression.” Civil Rights advocates and those who understand the value and impact of language have long pointed out that freedom of expression cannot ethically extend to hate speech. The argument of freedom of expression also obscures the vast differences of power at play, in which certain voices are enabled and sustained by the social forces that produced them: wealth, tenured professorship, the backing of a society built on white supremacy.

This play has no place on our campus. I call on the college leadership to responsibly answer the concerns of students and faculty, and withdraw it from production.

28 responses

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  2. Incredible, all of this. If I were still at Kenyon, these sorts of responses would have encouraged me to have the play anyway, indeed “underground” if the administration had written me with “Sorry, we’re officially canceling your play, don’t have it or you’re in trouble”.

    Kenyon has really disintegrated since I left. They needed me, they needed me real bad, but now I’m no longer there to protect them from the pretentious and neurotic wing of themselves.

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    • The only person trying to censor anyone is the professor. She requested that all copies of the play be returned to her or destroyed.

      • Are you insane? First of all, of course you are trying to censor her, that is obvious. Secondly, it’s her play. If you’re not going to support it, then return it to her.

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  14. As i continue to witnes the downfall of americas education system by replacing real
    facts with emotionally “safe-studies” But to whom are these “studies” safe?
    I am white but IS that ok or should it be If it still IS?The hatred towards whites IS the one message noblody can be ignorant about.
    Great strenght in diversity!

  15. The racism that blacks show against everyone else including the Latino community just shows us that the African American community tends to see color in everything, even if the rest of us are color blind. Hypocrisy is a natural result of blacks being racist and denying it to themselves and everyone else.

    • Black racism today is based on anger about the past and frustration about their present day under-achievement, enabled by guilty whites. Fortunately there is a growing number of black people who see this nonsense for what it really is, and who are willing to speak up. See, for example, Anthony Brian Logan, a conservative Youtube vlogger.

  16. Good luck getting a job with this strain of anger. Kenyon would do well to focus on outcomes and hence prepare students for real world. IF Kenyon wishes to be a feeder school for activist groups then it should advertise itself as such. Otherwise it should educate these students on constructive engagement over censorship. Good luck raising money with this kind of press. Take a look at Oberlin’s plight.

  17. Thanks, Kenyon. Now I can add another to the growing list of islands of fascism formerly known as liberal arts colleges to which my daughter will not be applying.

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  20. As a grandparent of a high school junior thinking about applying for admission to Kenyon College, the furor over the production of a play by a well-intentioned on-campus playwright really gives me pause. The passionate outpourings of the Adelante Latinx Student Association do not actually state specifically what they found offensive in the portrayal of Hector. The most concrete objections relate to the fact that there were not enough roles in the play for Latinx students and that the drama department did not put on more plays written by Latinx students or Latin American playwrights. Another key objection was either that Professor MacLeod did not use proper Spanish in the Spanish language dialog or that she did not offer to pay a native Spanish speaker to help with the text. Given that Kenyon has an overwhelmingly white student body, it seems the playwright was attempting to engage them in consideration of the plight of Hector. However, the Latinx community clearly rejects any part white people can play in either understanding or helping to improve the disadvantaged situation of immigrants from Latin America. Has any ethnically Latin American Kenyon professor or member of Adelante stepped up with a play of their own which embodies their principles and goals? It seems such a play would have been sure to be produced by the drama department. If not, it seems like a wasted opportunity. As we used to say, put up or shut up.

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  22. I recently read about what happened regarding this play. Along with what I have read happening at several other formerly sane Colleges and Universities, I am wondering what happened to people’s brains? Should I look down on the ground? In the garbage bin? In the toilet? That little ol’ saying, “Don’t be so open your brains fall out” comes to mind, but that is not quite adequate. Not only have many people’s brains fallen out, unfortunately, I don’t think they care too much to look for them once they find them missing.

    I don’t think it’s ‘the left’ that is the problem as much as it is others not standing up to this bs.

    Why didn’t the playwright stand firm with her play? Why didn’t more people support her?

    The play could have been allowed to succeed, or fail on it’s own merits.

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