Thursday, June 11, 2020

Two LSU professors say they will refuse to teach incoming freshman who used the "n" word in a video: I disagree

Once upon a time, colleges and schools had the job of inculcating civic virtues in their students: to introduce them to the marketplace of ideas, to think objectively and rationally, to be tolerant of others, and to appreciate diverse values and cultures.

But maybe those days are past. According to some academics, incoming students should be vetted to make sure they already have a particular set of values.  If they don't have those values before enrolling, they should be refused admission.

That seems to be the view of two professors at Louisiana State University who vow not to teach an incoming freshman should he try to enroll in their classes. Why? Because the poor sap used the "n" word in a video that became widely publicized.

I think they are wrong to take that position.

Don't misunderstand me. I abhor racist speech and racist sentiments. The young person who used that word acted wrongly. But how will a public university inculcate better values if it refuses to admit someone intolerant or wrongheaded on issues of race?

I'm retired, but I would not refuse to teach this student. If he took my class on higher education law, he would be exposed to some of the famous civil rights cases of the U.S. Supreme Court: Sweatt v. Painter, Brown v. Board of Education, and Grutter v. Bollinger. If he were a student in my classroom, he would be learning about American law in a multicultural environment because a significant percentage of my students are African Americans.

The two professors say they will drop students from their classes who have a record of engaging in hate speech.  Allysa Johnson is an assistant professor in the Department of  Biological Sciences.  William Doerrler is an associate professor in the same department.  

Both professors are widely published, and I'm guessing that students who take their classes will be exposed to the fascinating and broadly useful research in the biological sciences.  Professor Johnson specializes in the genetic causes of age-related degenerative diseases.  Professor Doerrler researches in the area of bacterial resistance to antibiotics--a critical medical issue.


I do not know anything about the student whom Professors Johnson and Doerrler want to bar from their classrooms. Perhaps the student is an avowed racist with no interest in biology. On the other hand, the misguided kid might make an enormous contribution to American society, were to be admitted to LSU and have his mind opened to new ways of thinking by LSU's eminent faculty.


In my view, refusing to admit a student to a public university classroom because of unfortunate remarks the student made before coming on campus undermines the core mission of a university--which is to nurture and stimulate minds---to help students to become better people.


LSU removes Middleton's name from university library--good. But let's expose all the famous bigots in American higher education--including the ones at Harvard, Stanford, and M.I.T.

Louisiana State University announced that it is changing the name of the university's main library. The library was named after Troy H. Middleton, a genuine hero of World War II and L.S.U.'s president from 1951 to 1962. Unfortunately, by present-day standards, Mr. Middleton was a racist. Mr. Middleton was a bit like Nicholas II, Russia's last czar, who didn't get the memo from the Bolsheviks.

L.S.U.'s current interim president, Tom Galligan, explained the reasons for the change. "Our goal is to erase symbols of things that exemplify a racist past," Galligan stated.
Any student, or particularly a student of color, that has to go into any building which bears the name of someone not identified with progress and [instead] with racist traditions is to inhibit their education. They won't feel safe in that building.
President Galligan is right. It is simply unacceptable to require African Americans to study in buildings that were named after prominent racists.  But I think America's education leaders should widen their examination of our nation's chauvinistic past and expose all famous people in American history who were prejudiced against not only African Americans but Catholics and eastern Europeans as well.

As Thomas Leonard revealed in his book Illiberal Reformers, almost all American intellectuals and political leaders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were eugenicists. By definition, these people supported efforts to reduce so-called inferior racial strains from America's predominately white, Anglo-Saxon population.

Francis A. Walker, president of M.I.T. (1881-1897), was a eugenicist who was prejudiced against eastern and southern Europeans. Anderson Dixon White, president of Cornell  University(1866-1885), portrayed European immigrants as barbarian invaders. David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford from 1891 to 1913, held similar views.

Moreover, American intellectuals during this period were almost universally prejudiced against Catholics. For example, Christopher Columbus Langdell, Dean of Harvard Law School (1870-1895), refused to admit graduates from Catholic colleges to Harvard Law School.

Harvard's president, Charles William Eliot, supported Langdell's bigoted policy, claiming it was based on the inferior quality of Catholic colleges and not prejudice. Was President Eliot himself an anti-Catholic bigot?  You bet. On a trip to Europe in the mid-1860s, he wrote: "I hate Catholicism as I do poison, and all the pomp and power of the Church is depressing and mortifying me."

Racial and religious prejudice among American intellectuals during the Progressive era is well documented, and yet we are not renaming buildings that were named after prominent bigots.  Harvard's law library is still named after Dean Langdell.  Stanford still has a campus building named after David Starr Jordan. Walker Memorial at M.I.T. still honors its eugenicist president.

So here is my plea to American higher education. Yes, scrub the names of racists from campus buildings. But don't settle for outing Confederates and relatively obscure guys like Mr. Middleton.  Change the names of buildings that honor prominent eugenicists and religious bigots, including the buildings at Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, and M.I.T.

That's a big job, so you better get started.

Christopher Columbus Langdell: Bigot-in-Chief at Harvard Law School (1870-1895)





Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Christopher Columbus statue beheaded in Boston. The morons are out of control.

Poor Christopher Columbus. He wasn't woke, and he paid the price.

Over the last few days, protesters pulled down Chris's statue in Richmond and dumped it into a lake. And in Boston, vandals beheaded a likeness of Chris located in Boston's North End.

What did Mr. Columbus do to deserve these indignities? He discovered America--the racist son of a bitch.  And by introducing Europeans to the Western Hemisphere, he ushered in a long era of oppression against the Native population and against Blacks.

OK, we get that. But what are we supposed to do now--all the descendants of privileged Europeans? Go back where we came from? If we did that, who would patronize the Indian casinos?

Of course, I'm being sarcastic. But on a more serious level, I am offended by the morons who vandalize statues of Christopher Columbus. They obviously aren't aware that Columbus symbolizes Catholic contributions to American history.

In the late nineteenth century, American Catholics were still being discriminated against, especially in New England. Protestants were forming men's civic organizations partly to establish life insurance funds for their members. But Catholics were not permitted to join these groups.

Father Michael McGivney, pastor of St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut, organized a small group of Catholic laymen to provide life insurance for Catholic working men.  One of the members suggested a name for the organization: the Knights of Columbus.

Over time, the Knights evolved from being merely an insurance company to becoming a militant organization devoted to stamping out anti-Catholic bigotry in the United States. It was the Knights who led the movement to recognize Columbus Day as a national holiday, and it was the Knights who fought the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s when the KKK was primarily an anti-Catholic terrorist organization.

By the early twentieth century, Christopher Columbus came to symbolize Catholic contributions to American history. He was especially dear to Italian Catholics because Columbus was Italian.  It is no accident that Columbus's statue in Boston is located in the North End--which is Boston's Little Italy.

Although the vandals may not know it, their lawless acts are microaggressions (don't you love that word?) against Catholics and ethnic Catholics in particular. When they deface a statue of Columbus, they dishonor millions of Catholic Americans, and they demonstrate their woeful ignorance of American history.

*****

Note: I am aware that strictly speaking, Columbus did not "discover" America.  Scandanavians were probably the first Europeans to explore North America. More to the point, archeologists theorize that the first people to settle the Western Hemisphere came from Siberia via the Bering Land Bridge.









Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Rather than defund the police, let's scrap those armored personnel carriers

George Floyd's death is a tragedy. Police violence toward black men is intolerable and must stop.

So what do we do? Black Lives Matter call for defunding urban police departments, an argument that has a certain appeal. No doubt about it, we could eliminate police violence if we got rid of the police.

But most Americans are opposed to that idea. If we get rid of the cops, critics say, the bad guys will steal our stuff.

Personally, I'm not that worried about people stealing my stuff. Why? Because I have absolutely nothing that anyone would want to take.  

I have a smart TV, but my grandkids tell me that it is not nearly smart enough, and I doubt anyone would burglarize my house to take it. I have hundreds of books on Catholic history and literature, but would anyone want to steal them? Doubtful. As for my Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, please swipe it before I throw it out. 

Here's a better idea for reforming American police departments than merely shutting them down.  Why not take away all their military hardware, including their Army-surplus armored personnel carriers?

According to the New York Times, the U.S. military gave hundreds of tons of military equipment to American police departments between 2006 and 2014, including 432 mine-resistant, ambush-proof armored vehicles (MRAPs) and 93,000 machine guns. 

Police officials say they need military hardware in an era of escalating violence. "I don't like it. I wish it were the way it was when I was a kid," one police chief said.  Nevertheless, "We're not going to go out there as Officer Friendly with no body armor and just a handgun and say 'Good enough.'"

Let's face facts. Over the past 30 years or so, our urban police departments have begun to resemble South American paramilitary units. Surely this transformation from "Officer Friendly" to black-mask wearing SWAT teams has made minority communities more afraid of the police.

And this creeping militarization began long before President Trump took office. The New York Times article I referenced was published when Barack Obama was in office. 



Police officers rightly argue that they occasionally need armored vehicles to deal with riots, looting, and homicidal maniacs. And I sympathize with that view. After all, hundreds of police officers were injured during the George Floyd riots.  If someone is going to throw a brick at me, I would much rather be inside an MRAP truck than standing on the street with only a plastic shield to protect me from the mob.

So I propose a compromise.  The police will stop killing black men in their custody.  The minority community will stop setting fire to their neighborhoods. And the police departments will scrap their armored trucks and give their machine guns back to the Army.

You think such a deal might be arranged?








MRAPS BY STATE
WA
ME
432
= 1 vehicle
ND
MT

Monday, June 8, 2020

All lives don't matter: If you think they do, then you ain't woke

Julia Lea, captain of a Mardis Gras parade group, was denounced recently by her group's members for posting a social media message that said "All Lives Matter."  

Some group members claimed Lea's statement was insensitive, coming so soon after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer on Memorial Day. Lea apologized, explaining she did not know some people would be upset by the phrase, but dozens of group members refused to accept her explanation and resigned from the group.

"As a former police officer and a leader, we don't believe that you didn't know the meaning of these statements and why they are offensive to the Black community and its allies," protesting members said in an open letter. "A leader like you, in a predominantly black city, has no excuse to be that ignorant. This racist statement does not represent us."

Essentially, Lea was condemned by her colleagues for being insufficiently "woke." She didn't know that the phrase "All lives matter" would be interpreted as a racist expression.

Moreover, her unfortunate remark is flat wrong. All lives don't matter: and Lea, a former police officer, should have known that.

First of all, police officers' lives don't matter, at least not this week. Two black police officers were murdered shortly after Floyd's death. Another officer was stabbed in the neck, and nearly 300 NYPD cops have been injured on the job, mostly by thrown bricks and bottles.  But to say "blue lives matter" could be interpreted as an atrocious racist slur. So, for God's sake, don't come to the defense of the police, or you'll be written off as a racist son of a bitch.

According to the CDC, more than 70,000 Americans died in 2017 from opioid overdoses. In fact, since 1999, about three-quarters of a million people have died from drug overdoses. You don't see anyone throwing bricks about that tragic statistic.  No buildings have been looted or burned. Why? Because people who die from drug overdoses don't matter.

Then there are the millions of unborn babies who have been aborted since Roe v. Wade--so many millions we've basically stopped counting.  Hardly anyone is alarmed by those numbers apart from a few Catholics and deranged pro-life activists. And that's as it should be because, as all woke Americans know, unborn babies don't matter. 

So--if you are unwoke and wish to be woke, you can start by repressing any urge to say all lives matter. You might be branded as a racist if you say that right now, and, in any event, it ain't true.


Photo credit: Boston Globe








Friday, June 5, 2020

George Floyd protests and NYC curfew arrests: Civil disobedience works great in a humane society

Two nights ago, George Floyd protesters tried a new tactic in New York City. Thousands of peaceful demonstrators remained on the streets after the curfew went into effect, and NYC cops arrested about 180 of them. No one resisted. All the detained protestors passively submitted to being hauled off to jail.

Passive resistance is an excellent tool for opposing injustice. Mahatma Gandhi used it and drove the British out of India. Martin Luther King preached the doctrine of nonviolent protest and galvanized the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, and she ultimately saw the end of segregated public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama.

But passive resistance only works if there is a baseline of humanity in the hearts of the oppressors. Mahatma Gandhi would have been strangled with piano wire if he had challenged Adolph Hitler. Rosa Parks would have disappeared into the Gulag if she had stood up to Stalin. Martin Luther King would have vanished into a concentration camp if he had opposed the Chinese Communist regime.

Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks displayed great courage--physical courage. The police departments of the South during the 1960s showed themselves to be ruthless, brutal, and lawless. But Southern racists finally bent to the national will for justice and racial equality, which the federal courts enforced.

Passive noncompliance with the New York City curfew is the perfect tactic for protesting the death of George Floyd. Why? Because the New York City Police Department, the courts, and the municipal government are basically liberal and humane institutions.

We should also remember that most people arrested for defying NYC's curfew will not spend much time in jail--if any. And this is a good thing. Locking up peaceful protesters in crowded detention centers cannot be justified given the risk that demonstrators could contract COVID-19 while incarcerated. I wouldn't do that, you wouldn't do that, and Major De Blasio won't do that either.

Violence and looting will dissipate in New York City in the coming days, but the nation's largest metropolis will pay the price for all these nights of civil unrest.  The coronavirus may return because thousands of people congregated on the streets with no thought to social distancing. Foreign tourists will decide to cancel their vacations in the Big Apple. A significant number of law-abiding New Yorkers will leave the city for warmer climes, lower taxes, and less social turmoil.

But for now, the spirit of Mahatma Gandi prevails in the City of New York, and the urban protesters who passively defy the city's curfew will win a victory over the police. As we pass through troubled times, let us remember to be thankful for the remarkable fact that Americans can engage in peaceful protest because America has a First Amendment that guarantees our right to free speech.








Wednesday, June 3, 2020

George Floyd gets 3 funerals: Who mourns the death of 2 black police officers?

Many years ago, I was driving on a lonely stretch of highway in northeast Louisiana when I was stopped for speeding by a Madison Parish deputy sheriff. The officer was polite and didn't threaten me in any way. Nevertheless, it was dark when I got pulled over, and I was a little frightened.

I suppose you could say it was an edifying experience because I never speeded through rural Louisiana again. In fact, I  gradually gave up speeding altogether because I didn't want to scare the hell out of myself by getting pulled over by a Southern cop.

Cops scare me, and I don't mess with them. I don't know anyone who does.

 I don't feel entitled to disobey a cop because I am a middle-class, white guy. Unlike a couple of attorneys in New York City, I don't feel privileged to throw a firebomb into a police cruiser simply because I have a law degree.

George Floyd's death is an outrage. The killing of any unarmed black man while in police custody is a tragedy. But I do not believe our nation's police departments are packed with racists. I agree with the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which said yesterday that "[a] solid body of evidence finds no structural bias in the criminal justice system with regard to arrests, prosecution or sentencing [of African Americans]."

Hysterical and baseless charges of endemic police racism have made cops vulnerable to violence.  David Dorn, a retired St. Louis police officer, was shot and killed by a looter while guarding a friend's pawn shot. A video shows him lying in his own blood on a sidewalk.  People were filming his mortal distress, but I didn't see anyone try to help him. Dorn was black.

Patrick Underwood, a federal security officer, was shot to death a few days ago while guarding a federal building in Oakland. Underwood was black.  

Mr. Floyd will have funerals in three states: Minnesota, North Carolina, and Texas. I'm sure Mr. Underwood and Mr. Dorn will have just one funeral.

Over the past week, more than a hundred law enforcement officers have been injured while they were trying to preserve public order and stop arson, looting, and vandalism.  Some of them are men. Some of them are women. Many of them are white, but some of them are black.

I don't know about you, but I'm in favor of "domestic tranquility"--the domestic tranquility that our Constitution promises to promote. And we won't have domestic tranquility if a significant portion of our population believes that attacking a police officer is justified as an act of civil disobedience.



David Dorn, retired police officer