East Tennessee State University to Present Play That Pushes White Privilege Narrative


East Tennessee State University (ETSU) officials are scheduled to present a play later this month that explores what they call the problem of white privilege.

That play, Straight White Men, recently appeared on Broadway, according to an emailed ETSU press release.

“The show tells the story of three brothers who have gathered at their widowed father Ed’s Midwestern home for Christmas Eve. Jake is a recently divorced banker, Drew is a writer and professor, and Matt, a Harvard graduate, has just moved back home with his dad,” the ETSU press release said.

“While the holiday begins with cheerful trash-talking, pranks, takeout Chinese food, and other Christmas rituals, the mood shifts when one of the siblings shows his emotional vulnerabilities, leaving the rest of the family debating what his true problem really is and what should be done to help him. The intervention leads to a discussion about being a straight white male and begs the question: can privilege be problematic?”

The Tennessee Star contacted ETSU officials on Friday and asked whether the university will present plays or other literature that postulates that privilege is based on something other than race, sex, or sexual orientation.

University spokesman O.J. Early said he would direct our question to school’s theater department — but no one in that department returned our request for comment.

Two years ago, ETSU officials screened a film on campus that argued against detaining immigrants and called on the federal government to eliminate the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The Star asked ETSU officials at the time if they, as a publicly funded university, would provide some sort of equal time to other films, or even people, with an opposing viewpoint.

ETSU officials at the time did not return our request for comment.

The film, titled The Infiltrators, appeared to have a political agenda.

An ETSU press release quoted Film Quarterly, which said the film makes “a compelling argument against immigration detention.”

University officials said that the National Endowment for the Arts helped fund the on-campus screening.

According to The Infiltrator’s website, the movie tells the true story of young immigrants named Marco and Viri who get arrested by Border Patrol and are put in “a shadowy for-profit detention center – on purpose.”

“Marco and Viri are members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a group of radical dreamers who are on a mission to stop deportations. And the best place to stop deportations, they believe, is in detention,” according to the film’s website.

“However, when Marco and Viri try to pull off their heist – a kind of ‘prison break’ in reverse – things don’t go according to plan.”

ETSU, in Johnson City, had nearly 15,000 students in 2017, according to the university’s website.

Last year, Knox County Schools (KCS) approved a dual enrollment course from ETSU that has historically taught Critical Race Theory.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News. Follow Chris on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, and GETTR. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “East Tennessee State University Welcome Sign” by East Tennessee State University. 




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5 Thoughts to “East Tennessee State University to Present Play That Pushes White Privilege Narrative”

  1. Randall Davidson

    ETSU needs new leadership immediately. So disappointed in our legislative leaders.

  2. william delzell

    Attempting to micro-manage Tennessee’s state universities and even its kindergarten-to-secondary institutions might cost Tennessee’s public education institutions their accreditation. This would make any diploma that a student earned while the accreditation loss was in effect worthless when he or she graduated and started looking for jobs. This loss of accreditation could come back and bite Republicans the way it did to Dixiecrats in Georgia during 1942. For those who don’t know their Southeastern History, then-Senator Eugene Talmadge’s micro-management of the University of Georgia/Athens’s curriculum caused Georgia’s flag-ship white university to lose its accreditation which, in turn, caused otherwise conservative white voters to support a fairly liberal (even by northern standards) gubernatorial candidate named Ellis Arnell. Georgia had a temporary anti-conservative backlash that lasted for at least four years. During that four-year term from 1942 to 1946, Arnall managed to push through many progressive measure as a result of Talmadge’s stupidity: making Georgia the first state in the Union (north or south) to lower the voting age to 18; to abolish state-run chain gangs; to enforce the 1944 Smith vs. Allright decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to abolish the whites-only Democrat Primary; to make it easier for blacks in Atlanta’s Congressional District to vote in the 1946 mid-term election; to lower the boom on right-wing terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Columbians, and the Cracker Party; to balance the budget; and so forth.

    Could Tennessee Republicans make the same mistake that Dixiecrat Talmadge made back in 1942 in their fanatical zeal to censor Tennessee’s educational curriculum?

    Only time will tell this fall.

    1. 83ragtop50

      We will take our chances with accreditation in order to regain control of our public education system.

  3. JB Taylor

    Cut all public funding and end Government Guaranteed student loans. Make the universities stand on their merits, instead of growing out on free tax money.