Last week I posted a letter I wrote to the Collegian here at Penn State regarding some race issues. I got some very interesting comments back from Evan Jones. I am always appreciative of your comments on my posts. As Evan wrote in his latest, it can be discouraging when no one is reading your blog. So thank you--comments at least let me know that someone is reading. And frankly, I'm much more interested when people disagree--maybe it's the lawyer hidden deep within me, but I just love to argue.
I guess where we differ is the point at which words become more than just words. To my mind, there is a reasonable expectation that yelling fire in a crowded theater is going to result in mayhem, etc. Therefore, this sort of expression should be limited--say to cases where there actually is a fire. However, rape and political assasination clearly go beyond the realm of expression. Though I'm not convinced it should be illegal to "incite" these acts. Such people may be beyond the pale and probably should be shunned from society, etc, etc. But I start to worry when we get too specific in telling people what they can and cannot think or even say.
I wrote "acts of hate" in quotes specifically because I questioned the legitamacy of calling them acts in the first place. This was not a case of a physical assualt, or a cross burning, or any other physical act. It was a few words--very nasty words--yelled from a dormitory window. While freedom of expression is certainly not possible in an atmosphere of violence and threats, it must be possible in an atmosphere of hate. It would be nice if we could all get along like civilized human beings, but we're not really free if we can only show our good sides.
Anyway, here are some other random thoughts:
I wonder how the Black Caucus would react if the College Republicans held an affirmative action bake sale (as was done at Cal Poly). Would that be considered racist or an act of hate?
I suspect that the perp in this case isn't really a truly hateful and bigoted racist at all--in the sense that he would probably never act on his words--but that he uttered those infamous words only because he knew what a tempest it would stir up. He and his drunken undergrad buddies are probably having quite a laugh over it now. As hateful as his words were, reading about the actions and demands of the Black Caucus recently has been quite amusing. Maybe the perfect payback WOULD be to give the victim and his associates free tuition.
Recommended reading to anyone interested in race issues: John McWhorter's Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America
[As a side note, the Collegian never ran my letter, though they have printed several other letters in the days since expressing similar sentiments--perhaps with more tact.]