JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Village Theatre asked job applicants to disrupt ‘toxic whiteness’ of musicals

Apr 6, 2021, 7:28 PM | Updated: Apr 7, 2021, 6:39 am
The toxic whiteness of musical theater awaits you inside this theater. (Screenshot: KIRO 7 TV)...
The toxic whiteness of musical theater awaits you inside this theater. (Screenshot: KIRO 7 TV)
(Screenshot: KIRO 7 TV)

Village Theatre asked job applicants to explain how they would “disrupt the toxic whiteness of the musical theatre genre.” They say it was asked in error. But how much of an error was this?

The inappropriate question was part of a series of political questions on Village Theatre’s application for the Youth Education Teaching Artist job. It prompted at least one prospective applicant from reconsidering their application.

After the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH asked whether or not the question was appropriate, the Village Theatre pulled it down.

But their newly-adopted commitment to social justice causes, and the way they promote it, makes this seem less unintentional than they claim. They imply they are actively looking to hire “anti-racist” activists and say they only pay minority interns because white interns come from positions of privilege. It makes sense to me why this question was asked, even if in error.

‘Disrupt the toxic whiteness’ and other inappropriate questions

Everett- and Issaquah-based Village Theatre is a nationally known producer of musical theater. But recently, staff members got woke.

The nonprofit adopted a radical activist posture to fight what they believe to be systemic racism in the world of theater. In June 2020, the group vowed to embark on an “intentional journey” to be an “anti-racist organization — one that takes action against inequity and to dismantle structural and institutional racism.”

They vowed to be open-minded. But, apparently, they’re merely looking for employees who share their political positions.

In the application for the position in its KIDSTAGE program, Village Theater asked applicants: “How do/would you disrupt the toxic whiteness of the musical theatre genre?”

The Village Theatre did not explain what this means when asked directly by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. But a review of their website offers hints.

Village Theatre complains that the “musical theatre industry is predominately led by white men” and promises to “address oppressive white cultural norms in our programs.” Those oppressive norms include “worship of the written word” (Village Theatre doesn’t teach respect for the playwright?), “objectivity” (apparently it’s white supremacy to strive for objectivity), and a “right to comfort” (an odd position from activists who claim everything is racist).

Village Theatre pulled down the question

A prospective applicant reached out to me with their concerns, saying they were “shocked to discover the radical aims of their hiring process.” Indeed, if whiteness is toxic in musical theater, wouldn’t it deter white people from applying for a job in musical theater?

After the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH raised questions about the application, citing the prospective applicant’s concern that they would be discriminated against for their politics or whiteness, the Village Theatre pulled their “toxic whiteness” query from the application.

In a statement, the Village Theatre said they were thankful to be alerted to the “unintentionally inflammatory language” in the application. They called it an “administrative oversight” on their part, though do not specifically say how the question was included or who added it. They acknowledged that it “indicated to some that perhaps KIDSTAGE would be biased in its hiring practices” when they say they are not.

“In pursuit of assessing prospective teaching artist’s cultural competencies, KIDSTAGE built an application with a prompt that used language that may have unintentionally deterred some candidates from applying,” the statement says. “We regret that this particular question on the application wasn’t fully vetted with proper administrative oversight and the application has since been amended. Additionally, Village Theatre has updated its internal review processes as it pertains to the publishing of public-facing language to avoid a situation such as this in the future.”

This may have been an oversight and I believe they didn’t intend to include the question. But I understand how it ended up in the application. Village Theatre doesn’t seem especially welcoming to anyone who doesn’t share their far-left political beliefs.

You must be “anti-racist” to work for Village Theatre

You must do more than fight against toxic whiteness of musical theater — whatever that means — to work at Village Theatre. Apparently, you have to also be an “anti-racist” activist.

The application asks potential employees, “What does anti-racism look like in your classroom?”

If this seems like a benign question, you’d be mistaken. This isn’t demanding your classroom be free of racism; this demands you actively pursue political positions forwarded by progressives to fight racism as they see it. Indeed, it doesn’t merely believe that Black lives matter (as most people do), but the theater endorses the political movement Black Lives Matter.

Reading through their website’s racial equity plan, it seems they are consciously hiring people on the basis of race, not necessarily skill. They promise to “dig much deeper to identify the culture and systems that perpetuate homogeneity, be honest about which perceived barriers to hiring POC are real vs. excuses, and adopt specific practices to increase representation in all areas of the organization.”

Village Theatre even appears to pay interns on the basis of race. They claim that “by nature” the unpaid internships they offer “give a leg up to predominately-white middle/high-income students who are able to afford a summer with no income.” In Snohomish County, apparently all white kids come from middle/high-income families and all kids of color are low-income.

Consequently, they offer “full-time paid internships to Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color (BISOC) to start to tackle this inequity.”

Inconsistently woke

For a nonprofit working so hard to signal their woke bona fides, Village Theatre is remarkably inconsistent.

They say they will fight hard to ensure racial equity, which includes better representation of people of color. Yet their application asks job seekers, “What is your pay rate history with youth education organizations like KIDSTAGE?”

Critics of the question argue is perpetuates racism. More problematic for Village Theatre, asking the question on the application appears to be illegal.

The bill specifically says an employer may not “Seek the wage or salary history of an applicant for employment from the applicant or a current or former employer.” The applicant may, however, provide it voluntarily.

Washington State banned the practice of asking about pay history because, Democrats argued, it “contributed to persistent earning inequalities.”

Implications

Though Village Theatre pulled the question about toxic whiteness from their application, the question on anti-racism remains.

Given it’s impossible to separate out the left-wing political ideology behind the activist term, this comes off as telegraphing that they don’t want conservatives to apply. Or even white people.

If Village Theatre wants to hire like-minded employees, which is what seems to be the intent, so be it. Why take down the toxic whiteness question at all?

While I think it’s counterproductive to claim you support diversity while pushing away — intentionally or not — conservatives, that’s their decision to make. I suppose I’d rather know a company wouldn’t respect me before taking on a job and I can think of no better way to let applicants know how little respect you have for their conservative positions than to put out an application like this.

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: Village Theatre asked job applicants to disrupt ‘toxic whiteness’ of musicals