Two students were arrested for making death threats against black students at Mizzou, and a professor offered to resign after black students protested his refusal to postpone an exam. But the real danger is ‘political correctness,’ right? (More)
“We can and will look beyond our differences”
Police arrested two college students in Missouri on Wednesday for making threats to black students that heightened tensions as the state’s flagship University of Missouri-Columbia campus has been roiled in recent weeks by racial strife.
Others tweeting from the university’s Columbia campus said people used racial epithets as they drove around the school, and a group of men walking with bandannas covering their faces yelled racial slurs at black students.
Let’s be clear. This isn’t about “racial strife.” Not one of the many incidents documented by Mizzou’s student newspaper involved black students shouting racial epithets or disrupting white students’ activities. This is about white students asserting white supremacy.
And that’s why university officials’ responses seem tone deaf:
Wednesday afternoon, Hank Foley, incoming interim chancellor, said the University of Missouri “must not lose perspective during this critical time.”
“I know that some of our students, staff and faculty are feeling insecure,” Foley said. “I want to assure them that as we move forward toward a brighter future we are here, standing together and working hard not only to assure their safety but also to assure that every member of our Mizzou family is getting the individual help they need to make the most of the opportunities offered here.”
Garnett Stokes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, also released a statement saying school officials were proud of students for standing up for their ideals.
“We want to support them while continuing to assure an atmosphere of security and opportunity for all,” he said. “This can be a wonderful learning experience; we must treat each other with respect. We can and will look beyond our differences and heal the wounds that some have experienced.”
By hiding the issue of white supremacy behind collective phrases like “some of our students” and “the wounds that some have experienced” … Foley and Stokes continue the fiction that “racial tension” is a ‘both sides’ problem.
“If you give into bullies, they win”
A white professor, however, challenged his students to come to class, to prevent the “bullies” from winning:
“If you don’t feel safe coming to class, then don’t come to class,” Dale Brigham wrote in an e-mail to his Nutritional Science 1034 class. “I will be there, and there will be an exam administered in our class.
“If you give into bullies, they win. The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose.
“I know which side I am on,” Brigham said in the e-mail. “You make your own choice.”
One student summarized black students’ response perfectly:
“That’s our lives in danger,” said Triniti, 19, who asked The Post not to use her full name for fear of retaliation. “It’s very scary.
“I don’t want to even touch campus,” she said. “I don’t even want to leave my house, let alone go to campus. Just for the fact that … I know we are in the South, and I know that we are the minority and racial tensions are really high.”
“I would not feel safe at all were this not the case”
Note, in contrast, how English instructor and PhD student Bradley Harrison Smith handled this same problem. In a message he sent to students and posted on Facebook Tuesday night, he said, “I’m writing to tell you that I’m canceling class tomorrow (Wednesday 11/11/15). The truth is, despite all of the threats on social media, I would still probably feel safe on campus were we to have class. But that’s because I am a white man. I would not feel safe at all were this not the case. By holding class at our regular time, I would be forcing my students who do and probably should feel threatened to implicitly disobey me in order to protect their lives by not attending my class. Which means that, were I to tell you something like: ‘We are going to still have class, but stay home if you don’t feel safe…’ (which is what I originally planned to say) I think I would be participating in the marginalization of minority students by tacitly supporting an educational environment in which certain students feel safe while others cannot. Attending class tomorrow, in light of the recent threats, would be a privilege not available to all my students, and I have therefore decided that it will not be a privilege for any of my students.”
I’ll give Smith an A for recognizing a key distinction that Brigham finally grasped a few hours later:
“I am just trying to do what I think is best for our students and the university as an institution,” Brigham said to KOMU 8 News [in offering to resign]. “If my leaders think that my leaving would help, I am all for it. I made a mistake, and I do not want to cause further harm.”
“But he learned who the real bullies are”
Brigham admitted his mistake, and the university refused to accept his resignation. But The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher is outraged that black students dare to fear for their lives in the face of white supremacist threats:
[Brigham] apparently thought he was encouraging them to be strong in the face of online threats. But he learned who the real bullies are when this kind of thing began to happen:
Dreher then quotes tweets from black students who criticized Brigham’s refusal to cancel the exam. He’s especially furious at a student who used foul language. But in purporting to expose “the real bullies,” Dreher devotes not one word to the white students who posted death threats or rode around the campus in pickups wearing bandanas and shouting racial epithets.
“The self-serving deflection”
Instead, Dreher and others – including journalists who ought to know better – are up in arms the more pressing danger of ‘political correctness.’ Thankfully, the The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb calls them out on that distraction:
Of the many concerns unearthed by the protests at two major universities this week, the velocity at which we now move from racial recrimination to self-righteous backlash is possibly the most revealing. The unrest that occurred at the University of Missouri and at Yale University, two outwardly dissimilar institutions, shared themes of racial obtuseness, arthritic institutional responses to it, and the feeling, among students of color, that they are tenants rather than stakeholders in their universities. That these issues have now been subsumed in a debate over political correctness and free speech on campus – important but largely separate subjects – is proof of the self-serving deflection to which we should be accustomed at this point. Two weeks ago, we saw a school security officer in South Carolina violently subdue a teen-age girl for simple noncompliance, and we actually countenanced discussion of the student’s culpability for “being disruptive in class.” The default for avoiding discussion of racism is to invoke a separate principle, one with which few would disagree in the abstract – free speech, respectful participation in class – as the counterpoint to the violation of principles relating to civil rights. This is victim-blaming with a software update, with less interest in the kind of character assassination we saw deployed against Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown than in creating a seemingly right-minded position that serves the same effect.
At issue are a black student’s angry denunciation of a Yale professor and the Missouri protesters’ daft media strategy of blockading reporters from a public demonstration. The conflict between the Yale student and Nicholas Christakis, the master of the university’s Silliman College – whose wife, Erika, the associate master of the college, wrote an e-mail encouraging students to treat Halloween costumes that they find racially offensive as a free-speech issue, in response to a campus-wide e-mail encouraging students to consider whether their costumes could offend – was recorded on a cell phone and posted on the Internet. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national campus free-speech organization, posted the video to their Web site. Since then, a young woman who argues with Christakis in the footage has been called the “shrieking woman” by the National Review and subjected to online harassment and death threats. Surely these threats constitute an infringement upon her free speech – a position that has scarcely been noted amid the outraged First Amendment fundamentalism. This rhetorical victory recalls the successful defense in the George Zimmerman trial, which relied upon the tacit presumption that the right to self-defense was afforded to only one party that night – coincidentally, the non-black one. The broader issue is that the student’s reaction elicited consternation in certain quarters where the precipitating incident did not. The fault line here is between those who find intolerance objectionable and those who oppose intolerance of the intolerant.
“The black community distrusts the news media because it has failed to cover black pain fairly”
The Washington Post’s Terrell Jermaine Starr puts the issue in stark terms:
Video of a confrontation between a news photographer and protesters at the University of Missouri on Monday led to a dispute between journalists and the activists’ sympathizers beyond the campus walls. In response to a series of racial issues at the university, a circle of arm-linked students sought to designate a “safe space” around an encampment on the campus quad. When they blocked journalist Tim Tai from photographing the encampment, reporters complained that media were denied access to a public space.
Certainly, Tai – like any journalist – had a legal right to enter the space, given that it was in a public area. But that shouldn’t be the end of this story. We in the media have something important to learn from this unfortunate exchange. The protesters had a legitimate gripe: The black community distrusts the news media because it has failed to cover black pain fairly.
These student protesters were not a government entity stonewalling access to public information or a public official hiding from media questions. They were young people trying to create a safe space from not only the racism they encounter on campus, but the insensitivity they encounter in the news media. In the outsized conversation that erupted about First-Amendment rights, journalists drowned out the very message of the students Tai was covering.
But this was never about covering the harassment experienced by black students. As coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement has shown, most white journalists want click-bait images of Angry Black People, because that helps them turn a story about white supremacy into a story about “racial strife.”
“People who can’t discuss Halloween costumes rationally don’t deserve to play a role in running a great nation”
But ‘political correctness’ is a real threat, as wingnut law professor Glenn Reynolds inadvertently reveals:
Those too fragile to handle different opinions are too fragile to participate in politics. So maybe we should raise the voting age to 25, an age at which, one fervently hopes, some degree of maturity will have set in. It’s bad enough to have to treat college students like children. But it’s intolerable to be governed by spoiled children. People who can’t discuss Halloween costumes rationally don’t deserve to play a role in running a great nation.
Yes, free speech is paramount, until you say something Reynolds doesn’t like. Then you – and everyone else in your age group – should be barred from voting. And if you’re an adult (for example, awaiting formal acceptance of a teaching position at a major university) and you say something Reynolds doesn’t like (for example, opposing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians) then you should be fired.
“Not only does Mr. Bush not belong in the White House or the Republican Party, but he should also be deported”
On stage inside the debate hall, Mr. Trump stuck to his guns and said immigration legislation passed by Democrats and Republicans in Congress and approved by presidents from both parties should simply be enforced. That is all he is saying.
Yet Mr. Bush not only thinks these laws should be summarily dismissed, but he also said during the debate that even having a discussion about enforcing our immigration laws is a terrible thing. We should dismiss these laws, and there should not even be a debate about it.
“They’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this,” Mr. Bush said.
Wow. Truly astonishing. Not only does Mr. Bush not belong in the White House or the Republican Party, but he should also be deported. Perhaps to Mexico, where he might be happier and find greater success in politics.
These people really have no clue how desperately frustrated and estranged American voters in both parties are over this issue of rampant illegal immigration and Washington’s absolute refusal to take simple, common-sense measures to fix the problem.
John Kasich should be deported right behind Jeb Bush.
Setting aside his factual errors – undocumented immigration has shrunk to a trickle and most Americans support comprehensive immigration reform – Hurt says candidates who disagree with him should be thrown out of the country.
But “the real bullies” are black college students who take seriously the death threats issued by white supremacists. Yeah. Right.
Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson (AP)
Good day and good nuts