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Washington State University Professor Calls Student "White Shitbag" at Demonstration:

The WSU investigation report is here. The College Republicans organized an anti-illegal-immigration event, featuring a "24-foot, chain-link, cyclone fence, later established as a representation of a 'Wall of Immigration.'" Professor John Streamas showed up, got into an argument with Dan Ryder, a College Republicans member, and in the process called him a "white shitbag."

Ryder eventually filed a complaint alleging that Streamas subjected him to discriminatory harassment and intimidation, in violation of a university policy. The WSU report held that Prof. Streamas's insult didn't violate the policy, but noneteless condemned Prof. Streamas for "immature, intellectual unsophistiated and thoughtless conduct unbecoming any WSU employee and a member of the WSU faculty, in particular." The university will apparently officially reprimand Prof. Streamas.

It seems to me that Prof. Streamas's statement indeed shouldn't be a fireable offense. Despite the First Amendment and academic freedom protections that professors have, I think a university could indeed sanction in various ways one-to-one personal insults said by professors to students, especially when they fall within the constitutional category of "fighting words" (words that are likely to start a fight), which "shitbag" likely does. But to do that, I think the university ought to have a policy that's far clearer than the one at issue here; and there should any event be some accommodation for occasional statements made in anger — especially when the speaker promptly apologizes when called on this, as Streamas did here, when berated by Mr. Ryder for the insult. When people get impassioned, they sometimes say things that they shouldn't say, and while we expect better from professors, making each such statement (even an insulting one) into a firing offense (or, when said by students, into a dismissable offense) would go too far to deter extemporaneous debates in which people realize they may go over the line.

I agree that we also have to be attentive to students' academic freedom, and certain speech by professors — most obviously, threats of academic retaliation — can undermine students' freedom. But here the statement was outside class; Prof. Streamas wasn't one of Ryder's professors; and while Mr. Ryder was rightly offended by the statement, I don't think he could have reasonably interpreted it as a threat of either retaliation or of violence (except insofar as all heated condemnation, including condemnation that's much more substantive than this, may carry some vague and indirect implicit threat of retaliation).

Nonetheless, it is pretty sad that this incident happened, and it says some pretty bad things about Prof. Streamas and others like him. First, the report tells us that Prof. Streamas "insists that he did not utter the phrase as an expression of racism, in part, because he argues that a person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking." Yeah, right. He and others are redefining the term "racism" in a way that's pretty far removed from its normal meaning — which is racial hostility — so as to give themselves a rhetorical break from the rules they're imposing on others. And on top of that, he's applying even his revised definition in a disingenuous way: Whatever may be "usually" so, there surely is a "power differential" between a professor of whatever race and a student of whatever race.

Second, "In reply to a [university Center for Human Rights] request for a meeting, [Prof. Streamas] left an unsolicited voicemail message, which stated, in relevant part,"

The fence was a racist attack upon us. And ... I think that we need to talk about that .... Whatever I said to one person is not equal to whatever that fence did to hundreds of people, attacking us personally and communally.... Many, many people have been hurt. I don't care about the hurt feelings of one white person; I care about the hurt feelings of many, many people of color and immigrants who were offended by that fence....

Well, yes, the two are not equal. The fence and the demonstration related to it is an attempt to participate in a debate about illegal immigration. Some might think that the attempts to stem illegal immigration are inherently racist; others might not; but what's important for a university is that illegal immigration and the responses to it are a substantive issue that requires substantive discussion.

That people are "offended" by the discussion, or by the symbols of the discussion, is no reason not to have the discussion. (I suppose one could argue that the fence is a nonsubstantive symbol that doesn't add much to the discussion, but I take it that any "people of color and immigrants who were offended" would have been equally offended by substantive denunciations of illegal immigration as much as they would be by a fence.) And this is especially so with a university: A university can't function effectively if people are deterred from raising substantive arguments because some people (even "many people of color and immigrants") are offended.

On the other hand, calling a student a "white shitbag" is not an attempt to participate in a debate, or to foster a debate. It's namecalling that's pretty clearly intended to insult, and likely to have no effect but insulting. That sort of offensiveness — deliberate nonsubstantive insult, rather than an expression of ideas (good or bad) — undermines rather than advancing the mission of the university, especially when it's a professor who's doing the talking.

Finally, how can a university fulfill its mission if its faculty deny that there is even a substantive debate to be had, on an issue that seems much in need of a substantive debate? Prof. Streamas's view is that "The fence is no different than a Confederate flag or a swastika." Than a swastika? Taking the view that immigration laws ought to be enforced, and that some limits on immigration are proper, is tantamount to endorsing the killing of Jews and an explicit ideology of racial superiority?

There's an important debate to be had about the proper immigration policy for our nation (a nation to which I suspect hundreds of millions would want to come, if the borders were completely opened). People of all races have different views on the subject. I unfortunately couldn't find any recent polls on immigration broken down by race, but a 1996 poll (the most recent one I could find) reported that roughly identical numbers — 86% to 90% — of black, Asian, and white respondents took the view that Clinton should in his second term "crack down on illegal immigration." (Warning: Asian numbers have a very high margin of error, and black numbers have a relatively high one.) In 1994, the Voter News Service poll reported that California's anti-illegal-immigrant Prop. 187 was supported by 64% of white voters, 57% of Asians, 56% of blacks, and 31% of Hispanics. (Same warning as above, though somewhat less so.) The L.A. Times reported less support by nonwhites, but still substantial support — 63% among whites, 47% among Asians and blacks, and 23% among Hispanics.

This is an issue that people, especially scholars who are interested in such questions, should address seriously and thoughtfully. Yet my sense is that there's an atmosphere in many university departments, especially ones that are ideologically monolithic and thus tend towards being echo chambers, that professors react to these questions with vitriol rather than with thoughtfulness. That surely seems to be so of Prof. Streamas.

Harry Eagar (mail):
Wow.

Raise your hands, everybody who thinks the professor would still have his job if he were white and had called a student a black or brown shitbag.
12.20.2006 1:46pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I agree that this seems to have been handled appropriately. I do hope that everybody in the academic community reacts the same way the next time a white student or faculty member makes a racially-charged statement directed at a minority student or faculty member. Sadly, I don't think that was the case. Had a white faculty member called a black student a "black shitbag", I expect we'd see another reaction entirely.
12.20.2006 1:48pm
Federal Dog:
Harry beat me to it. Un-freaking-believable.
12.20.2006 1:49pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Harry, Dog,

That double standard is a price we will long pay for the sins of our fathers; even if our fathers have never even been to the United States and lived their entire lives in Russia and Israel. Yeah.

That aside, I agree that thing was appropriately treated. It's not his punishment is too lax, it's just that we all know that it would never be consistently applied across racial lines.
12.20.2006 1:56pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
I don't think that any such double standard is fair. But just because universities are likely to improperly overreact in one situation doesn't mean that we should insist that they overreact in a similarly improper way in other sitautions.

Equal application of the rules is generally good, and often helps ensure that the rules are fair. But it's not the ultimate good that must trump all others. Often limiting the system's errors to those zones in which they are (wrongly) entrenched is better than demanding that they be extended to all analogous zones.
12.20.2006 2:00pm
sbron:
Part of the Professor's definition of racism is
incorrect to a great extent, at least in California.

"racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking."

But many of the most powerful politicians in California
are Latino, e.g. Fabian Nunez (assembly speaker),
Antonio Villaraigosa (Mayor of Los Angeles) and the
Latino Caucus in the state legislature. Latinos in
California clearly have a great deal of political
power, and many whites and asians are reluctant to
voice their opposition to illegal immigration
in situations where people of Mexican/Central American
descent are present.
12.20.2006 2:04pm
KevinM:
"Asian numbers have a very high margin of error, and black numbers have a relatively high one."
Racist!!



(Just kidding, Eugene.)
12.20.2006 2:08pm
Justin (mail):
"Raise your hands, everybody who thinks the professor would still have his job if he were white and had called a student a black or brown shitbag."

"I don't think that any such double standard is fair. But just because universities are likely to improperly overreact in one situation doesn't mean that we should insist that they overreact in a similarly improper way in other sitautions."

If you think treating two things differently because they're different is a "double standard," then I apologize, although I think Professor Volokh is then missing part of the point (note: I don't find the Professor's actions condonable, I just think Professor Volokh is attaching a highly flawed position to his argument, and I think it is unfortunate).

If you think calling someone "black" and calling someone "white," even contemptuously, is the same , I think you could read this:

History of Racism (Wiki)

I understand, and vehemently disagree, with the impulse to legally treat discrimination of the minority and discrimination of the majority as the same thing, both positively and normatively. But if we're actually talking about the "real world," the position is patently absurd. That doesn't make "anti-white bigotry" a good thing, but to put it at the same level of "anti-black bigotry" or "anti-hispanic" bigotry is to try and claim the history of the world just doesn't exist.
12.20.2006 2:09pm
Justin (mail):
Durr, I may be mistinterpreted. I don't find the DESCRIBED Professor's actions condonable - they were, indeed, reprehensible. I think Professor Volokh is guilty of only a misunderstanding of the subject matter or a failure to weigh the balance correctly.
12.20.2006 2:11pm
Federal Dog:
Actually, I do not suggest that the guy be fired. I merely note the staggering hypocrisy underpinning the school's reaction.
12.20.2006 2:12pm
Jeff S.:
Professor Seamas is a jerk and holds silly views, but why does the University have to punish him? Let him say "white shitbag" all he wants, preferrably over and over again. Ultimately, there will be no greater punishment than the one he inflicts on himself for being stupid and wrong.
12.20.2006 2:12pm
John (mail):
I disagree with Eugene on the need for a "clearer" policy--or any "policy" for that matter. Have we lost the ability, without written rules, to know that a professor is acting improperly when he insults a student by calling him a "shitbag"?

Our litigiousness, unfortunately, has made so much written rule-making necessary. How sad.

My old professor (I am dating myself here), K.C. Davis, wrote about discretionary justice--the concept that sometimes we are better off letting people make decisions based on their judgment rather than by endlessly complex rules designed to remove any discretion. It is too bad that in so much of academia, as in so much of our lives, we don't let people decide things and judge them on their decisions, rather than have people try to follow complex rules (that can never be complete), and judge them on how well they follow the rules. We don't need rules saying, don't insult students by calling them shitbags. We do need administrators who, even in the absence of such rules, use their discretion and judgment to discipline professors who call kids shitbags.
12.20.2006 2:15pm
Random Commenter:
Justin -- thanks for the amusing diversion. Nothing succeeds like a truly clever parody.
12.20.2006 2:18pm
jncc (mail):
So the protester actually filed a complaint with the university just because somebody called him a name?

What a little crybaby.
12.20.2006 2:19pm
FantasiaWHT:
How many jobs are there where an employee can call a customer a "shitbag" of any type and keep their job? I'm making an assumption that this took place on campus, and likely during "normal" school hours. Even if the professor wasn't in his classroom or office when this happened, he was still on his work premises
12.20.2006 2:24pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I'm sympathetic to Justin's view that, normally, a white person using a racist epithet toward a black person has more power to wound than a black person using a racist epithet toward a white person. That may make some issues trickier to address than if we were to pretend otherwise, but we do need to take into account history and reality.

Having said that, I would echo E.V.'s point that we shouldn't forget the OTHER power dynamic here: professor vs. student. For example, a tenured professor telling a student in class "you're an idiot who will never understand this subject" packs significantly more punch than a student saying the same thing to a tenured prof.
12.20.2006 2:24pm
Al (mail):
>>So the protester actually filed a complaint with the university just because somebody called him a name?

Yea...and why didn't Rosa Parks just move to the back of the bus instead of making a big deal out of it.
12.20.2006 2:25pm
PersonFromPorlock:

"...he argues that a person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking."

So when Eichmann was hanged by the Israelis he was, by definition, no longer a racist?
12.20.2006 2:26pm
Justin (mail):
Joseph, I made no intention to deny that what the Professor did was beyond the pale, and that his reprimand is deserved, for the reasons we mention. Though lets also not kid ourselves, in that this was exactly what Dan Ryder and the College Republicans were hoping for, either.

Professor Stremas should be held to a higher standard as well, since he's presumed to be more mature than a college kid. But while EV (correctly) criticizes Stremas for ignoring the fact that "this is an issue that people, especially scholars who are interested in such questions, should address seriously and thoughtfully," there is no benefit from pretending that the College Republicans in question were trying to provoke that debate by this emotional appeal, mostly to the worser instincts of those for who they disagree (much like the "affirmative action bake sales" that College Republicans tend to think are so cute).
12.20.2006 2:30pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
So let me get this straight.

Arguing for immigration controls is racist even if they are aimed at all races and even if "Latino" is neither a race nor an ethnicity but rather a language/cultural group (ask former Peruvian President and 100% ethnically Japanese Alberto Fujimori).

According to the US Census, 91% of Hispanics list their race as 'white'.
12.20.2006 2:34pm
Bored Lawyer:
The real question is that with the breathtaking leaps in reasoning displayed by the good professor, how did he ever become tenured in the first place? The answer to that will lead you to what is trully the problem in higher education today.
12.20.2006 2:35pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Justin:

I wasn't trying to disagree with you. In fact, I think I'm the only other person on this thread who is even willing to entertain the idea that the history of racism generally gives more wounding power to racist comments by members of the dominant group.

I also agree with you re what the College Republicans were hoping for. And we agree that the Prof. acted badly in response.
12.20.2006 2:38pm
Ubertrout (mail) (www):
I think the professor's definition of racism, much like definitions of democracy and freedom, is one of the primary unspoken areas that seperate leftists from the mainstream (in which I include the majority of both parties). As heirs to the marxist legacy, to their mind inequality is the greatest enemy, and must be dealt with at all costs. As such, all terms must be seen through the prism of an unequal power dynamic, and only have meaning in terms of that dynamic. Racism is an expression of race-based inequality, sexism is an expression of sex-based inequality, and "equal protection" in the context of this prism means effective favoritism. As such the only kind of racist minority is a Clarence Thomas, and the only kind of sexist woman is a Phyllis Schlafly.

I think this is a large part of why the academy has so little impact outside its walls. I vividly recall writing a law piece on democracy and classic republicanism, and discovering that to most academics, democracy does not stand for the will of the voting public - it stands for the protection of minorities from the majority. And yet, if you ask Americans, nearly all of them will give the commonsense (and correct) definition - that democracy simply means the will of the majority (those who have read a bit more will comment with a superior tone that America is in fact a Republic). On a fundamental level, the leftist part (read: majority) of the academy is no longer even using the same vocabulary as the general public. How can they expect to have an effect?
12.20.2006 2:41pm
M.E.Butler (mail):
It wasn't the color of young Mr. Ryder's skin that brought up that deadly epithet "white".

It was the color of the bag--a white bag, obviously. In a similar case, if the good Prof had seen me walking my dog the other morning, and picking up after her with the blue bag that the morning's New York Times had arrived in, he might have said something like: "Hey, where'd you get that blue shitbag?"

Or, it may have been the color of the shit. Once, when the dog was sick, her shit was white. I can see the good prof coming in to ask for the "white shitbag".
12.20.2006 2:44pm
jncc (mail):

Yea...and why didn't Rosa Parks just move to the back of the bus instead of making a big deal out of it.

Okay so you are equating the system of segregation in the south enforced by legal sanction with calling a college student a name at a protest? You might want to think about that.

Look, whenever some crybaby gets their knickers in a twist because they have been *called a name*, why do they run and make complaints and file lawsuits? Why not just grow up and get on with it?

I don't have any patience for whining little shi*ts - regardless of the color of their skin. For years the "right" has correctly pointed out the corrosive and silly effect of every little aggreived minority group whining about perceived slights and infractions. Such petulant childish behavior is just as bad when it comes from some snot-nosed college kid.

C'mon - can you imagine what a bed-wetter this guy must be?
12.20.2006 2:45pm
jncc (mail):

The answer to that will lead you to what is trully the problem in higher education today.

Yes, trully.
12.20.2006 2:46pm
Tom952 (mail):
An excellent analysis, Professor.
12.20.2006 2:50pm
M.E.Butler (mail):

I don't have any patience for whining little shi*ts - regardless of the color of their skin. For years the "right" has correctly pointed out the corrosive and silly effect of every little aggreived minority group whining about perceived slights and infractions. Such petulant childish behavior is just as bad when it comes from some snot-nosed college kid.


Which explains why Ryder should simply have punched Stremas in the nose. You know, heat of the moment and all. Strike while the iron is hot. Why go to law when you can go mano a mano?
12.20.2006 2:53pm
Bill N:

"...he argues that a person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking."

So when Eichmann was hanged by the Israelis he was, by definition, no longer a racist?

Actually, you might be surprised at the answer. The notion that racism cannot exist without a power relationship is part of the DNA of "diversity" and "sensitivity" indoctrination at many colleges. When I was a TA several years ago, I remember a fascinating discussion with a mixed-race group of bright undergrads about why an unemployed German man in 1932 might have been attracted to a racist ideology like Nazism (leaving aside for a moment reasons other than racism, such as the message of national renewal, that attracted many to the Nazi party). Such an unmployed man, they reasoned, who had lost his ability to provide for his family, lost his connection with his co-workers, and was thus feeling completely powerless, could not be attracted to racism precicly because he was powerless. Because they were unanimous in their understanding of the relationship between race and power, I asked where they had come to that understanding. They all refered to workshops on campus sponsored by a department devoted to "diversity" issues. One student brought me some literature from one of the workshops, and, sure enough, they had all been taught to regurgitate this nonsense. I must say, though, this was one of the most interesting discussions of my time as a TA, if for no other reason because the students themselves, unlike too many professors, were open to discussing these issues without hurling epithets.
12.20.2006 2:58pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):
The WSU official investigation is interesting. It focuses, as a key element, on warnings the demonstrators had ahead of time that some people would take offense to the demonstration. That, of course, is completely irrelevant to the matter at hand and doubtless would not have been included if the demonstration had been of the left-wing variety. The subtext is clear: "You asked for it, white kid, for saying stuff we disagree with."
12.20.2006 3:01pm
Houston Lawyer:
The professor should be summarily fired. Any defense of him rests on his innate inferiority to every white guy on campus. Apparently black men can't be held to the same standards as white men. His ranting nonsense other than the epithet makes it clear that he was an affirmative action hire from the start.
12.20.2006 3:01pm
Dan Hamilton:

Look, whenever some crybaby gets their knickers in a twist because they have been *called a name*, why do they run and make complaints and file lawsuits? Why not just grow up and get on with it?

I don't have any patience for whining little shi*ts - regardless of the color of their skin. For years the "right" has correctly pointed out the corrosive and silly effect of every little aggreived minority group whining about perceived slights and infractions. Such petulant childish behavior is just as bad when it comes from some snot-nosed college kid.

C'mon - can you imagine what a bed-wetter this guy must be?


The left thinks nothing of running and making complaints and file lawsuits. Anf the School's Administration supports them.

And things will never change until the School's Administration is forced to support complaints from both the Right and the Left. Or they are shown to be totally biased against the Right.

Again if the Left complains and the Right does not. The Right will continue to get the dirty end of the stick.
12.20.2006 3:03pm
SF:
Seriously, we all know that disproportionate enforcement of racial discrimination policy is not because the administration cares two shits about marginalized groups. If that were the case, they would pay students normal wages, and make education affordable without having to take out a mortgage.
12.20.2006 3:08pm
BGates (mail) (www):
Justin, could you explain in more detail how to take 'the history of the world' into account in deciding what is racism and what isn't? For instance, if a black person insults a Korean in racial terms, or vice versa, are either of those racism? Does it depend on whether the incident takes place in a majority black or Korean country, or neighborhood, or room?
12.20.2006 3:10pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Now that we know that he considers the difference significant, to me the important question is whether Professor Streamas grades white shitbags in his classes differently than he does black, brown, and yellow shitbags.
12.20.2006 3:11pm
Russ (mail):
jncc,

I think the "protester" filed the complaint not to be a "crybaby," but to show exactly that the University does not apply its policies equally to everyone. If nothing else, it exposes hypocrisy.

I agree that the professor should not be fired. However, the whole incident is worthwhile if it causes even one PC person to say, "Maybe there is a double standard, and perhaps we should re-think that."
12.20.2006 3:11pm
RV:

I don't have any patience for whining little shi*ts - regardless of the color of their skin. For years the "right" has correctly pointed out the corrosive and silly effect of every little aggreived minority group whining about perceived slights and infractions.


jncc is similar to Prof. Streamas in his resort to name calling due to an inability to take a reasoned position. There is a difference between seeing every bad thing that happens to you as a racial slight and having an employee call you a shitbag. He was right to report him, I'd do the same to a grocery clerk and he would have nothing like the kind of position of power over me as a professor does to a student.
12.20.2006 3:11pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
For those criticizing the College Republicans, are you suggesting that politically inclined groups should never stage protests with emotionally laden signs and symbolism designed in part to prompt opponents to reveal their true mindset?
12.20.2006 3:13pm
Gary McGath (www):
On the one hand, I agree that there was no reason for the University to discipline Prof. Streamas for a single incident. On the other hand, someone like Streamas who claims that his skin color automatically makes anything he says non-racist deserves to be called a racist shitbag.
12.20.2006 3:13pm
Rand Simberg (mail) (www):
Did anyone follow the link to see what this guy is a professor of?

"Ethnic studies." One of the most worthless (and in fact damaging) departments that can exist in a liberal arts college.
12.20.2006 3:14pm
Guest2 (mail):
This Ryder kid will be blogging for NRO before the month is out.
12.20.2006 3:19pm
Cornellian (mail):
Nice to see the College Republicans are still hard at work alienating the country's fastest growing demographic. The Democrats must be thrilled.
12.20.2006 3:24pm
SeaLawyer:
For those you care here is a link to videos of the demonstration.
12.20.2006 3:25pm
SeaLawyer:
I meant for those who care.
12.20.2006 3:26pm
Adam Scales (mail):
Justin and Professor Streamas raise an interesting distinction, but one that never seems capable of doing the heavy lifting when it's most needed.

My own (white) marxist economics professor made this same argument, vehemently, during the PC-ascendant 1980s. It does have some appeal, and I'm prepared to agree that many instances of racism have disparate impacts on individual minorities precisely because of our nation's history. The problem is that this argument is invariably employed only when a prominent minority says something stupid.

Let us substitute the term "prejudiced" or "bigoted" to describe Streamas. How on earth could anyone argue that this more precise description (to concede momentarily the economic and political definition of "racism") is exculpatory? Racism isn't bad simply because it causes material and political inequality; it is bad because it is transcendently stupid, AND has these consequences. So, Streamas is merely "bigoted". Should we feel better about his conduct? Justin?

Proponents of the racism-is-structure school do indeed have a tough time dealing with the remarkable propensity minorities have for expressing hatred towards other minorities. Maybe they learned it from Whitey, but that doesn't make it any less odious.
12.20.2006 3:26pm
Dr. Ellen (mail):
"Unequal power relations?"

I had a friend who was surrounded by a crowd of the local melanin-enriched yahoos and came out of it with stitches in her face from the belt buckle.

Tell me about "unequal power relations" always going in the same direction, nu?
12.20.2006 3:29pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Justin> "If you think calling someone "black" and calling someone "white," even contemptuously, is the same..."

Bull. Crap.

I humbly submit that unless "My grandfather suffered under Jim Crow" may have some signifigance when we're talking policy questions about weather you were born with less resources. But it MAKES NO DIFFERENECE to how you react to insults today. Only YOU are responsable for that.


Eugene Volokh> "I don't think that any such double standard is fair. But just because universities are likely to improperly overreact in one situation doesn't mean that we should insist that they overreact in a similarly improper way in other sitautions."

Wrong answer. If whites are the only race overreacted to, then there will NEVER be a disincentive to get rid of the overreaction, because you can fire whites seven times a day for looking at a black man cross-eyed and no one will hold you accountable.

You want to talk about power imbalances? The very first commenter here gave you a example of where one was... and your reaction was to rush to denial. Why is that?
12.20.2006 3:31pm
JR2 (mail):
"melanin-enriched" LOL
12.20.2006 3:35pm
Archon (mail):
I think your analysis of "fighting words" is a bit off base. In light of Supreme Court precedence I doubt one instance of "white shitbag" would bring a reasonable person to fisticuffs. See Cohen v. California, Hess v. Indiana, Gooding v. Wilson, and Lewis v. New Orleans for examples.

The University may be able to justify their actions by using a public concern doctrine analysis. The speech overall speech clearly is related to a hot button social topic of public concern which will then trigger a balancing test. I could easily see a court coming down on the side of the university while applying this test, although an academic freedom argument might push the judge in a different direction.

The fact of the matter is when you are involved in a heated discussion offensive language or profanity may be used. This professor was certainly no gentleman, but then again I don't want universities to get into the habit of enforcing civility standards. If you have the balls to raise a "wall of immigration" on a liberal campus, then you clearly are sturdy enough to withstand a professor calling you a "white shitbag."

If this was a white kid who called a black professor a "fucking sellout" (or something equivalent) I'm sure all the free speech groups would be rallying around the white kid instead of trying to justify the punishment.
12.20.2006 3:35pm
GW Crawford (mail):
> Such petulant childish behavior is just as bad when it comes from some snot-nosed college kid.

Snot-nosed college kid?

So, according to your logic...make that 'logic', if anyone is hit with a racist epithet, especially the snot-nosed white ones, they should just suck it up.

So that, the next time Professor Black Asshole calls them a name, they should put up with it? Is that your point, you liberal cocksmoke?

There is no problem here is there, you puerile pedophile?
12.20.2006 3:35pm
Mark Behnke (mail):

"...a person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking."



This is not new at all. As a senior in HS ('89) we had a speaker in our social studies class who said almost the same thing. He said, and I'll never forget it, "black people cannot be racist, because racism implies power and black people have no power." I can't remember his name but he was a prof at the University of Vermont at the time one of the few if not only black professors. This idea is at least 17 years old, and I'd bet it's a lot older. I'd be interested to know the origins.
12.20.2006 3:37pm
jncc (mail):

Which explains why Ryder should simply have punched Stremas in the nose.

I know you are being sarcastic, but this country might be We better off it people took that approach.


Again if the Left complains and the Right does not. The Right will continue to get the dirty end of the stick.

The other alternative is that the "Right" will just become a bunch of aggrieved bed-wetters who revel in their perceived persecution - just like so many on the "Left" do. Not attractive.


jncc is similar to Prof. Streamas in his resort to name calling due to an inability to take a reasoned position. There is a difference between seeing every bad thing that happens to you as a racial slight and having an employee call you a shitbag. He was right to report him, I'd do the same to a grocery clerk

RV - I'll address your insult first: Why don't you go piss up a rope, boy? Regarding the "substance" of your post:I imagine that if you were just picking up you tostitos and cauliflower and the grocer clerk said that to you that you would be right to report him.

But if you are engaging in an intentionally provocative protest, complaining about insults and responses is really so very flaccid and weak.

And while you apparently think being called a "white shitbag" is a truly injurious and traumatic event, no doubt that all the minority whiners who complained about office pranks and the like also thought that they were just shattered by the whole experience.
12.20.2006 3:38pm
whit:
from an officer's perspective, i would definitely not consider "white shitbag" to be "fighting words".

furthermore, when one is engaging in political discourse, there should be an expectation that one should be prepared to take some verbal abuse. that goes for both sides.

the professor is obviously a PC and bigoted leftwing idiot, but that's hardly surprising.

there SHOULD not be a double standard though. period.

whatever a university's punishment of a professor for calling a student a "white shitbag" *should* be (if anything. sticks and stones after all), it should be the exact same as a professor calling a black student a "black shitbag" and we all know that that is not gonna be the case.
12.20.2006 3:43pm
WTF (mail):
So this prof doesn't even have to sit through days and days of sensitivity training?! Damn spooks catch all the breaks.
12.20.2006 3:43pm
jncc (mail):

So, according to your logic...make that 'logic', if anyone is hit with a racist epithet, especially the snot-nosed white ones, they should just suck it up.

Pretty much - yes. I guess it is hard for you to conceive, but I can imagine a country in which people who are insulted just tell the "insulter" to go sod off and get on with their lives.


So that, the next time Professor Black Asshole calls them a name, they should put up with it?

Yep. Or say "Is that lame insult the best you can do?" Or pop the guy in the mouth if it really upset them.

Is that your point, you liberal cocksmoke?

See, there you go. Were we in person now I'd probably pop you for calling me a liberal. (I'll leave the cocksmoke imagery for you to discuss with your therapist.) But since you're posting anonymously on the internet, I'll say "Is that the best insult you can come up with?"

There is no problem here is there, you puerile pedophile

Points for the alliteration though.
12.20.2006 3:43pm
JR2 (mail):

Yep. Or say "Is that lame insult the best you can do?" Or pop the guy in the mouth if it really upset them.


Best advice I have seen so far, if only the world were that simple.
12.20.2006 3:46pm
TallDave (mail) (www):
He called him a "white shitbag!?" Quick, let's rally the NAAWP, the Congressional White Caucus, the White American Bar Association, the United Caucasian College Fund, and have David Duke demand an apology on behalf of whites or face a boycott from the Beige Coalition and Operation SHOVE... oh, wait, those things either don't exist or are considered despicable. Why is that again?

Maybe we should think about treating people equally, instead of putting them in racial identity groups.
12.20.2006 3:47pm
big jim (mail):
The professor apparently teaches racism, since that is his academic specialty, so it is no surprise that he practices what he teaches and preaches. "Streamas teaches introductory Ethnic Studies and Asian Pacific American Studies as well as Asian Pacific American literature, culture and power, theories of race and ethnicity, and Asian Pacific American women. He hopes to develop courses in race and war, race and geography, race and poverty, and race and university policy." The good news is, that though he's apparently a racist, he is "turned off" by war and "turned on" by peace, unlike the rest of us.
12.20.2006 3:51pm
Stacy (mail):
"I don't think that any such double standard is fair. But just because universities are likely to improperly overreact in one situation doesn't mean that we should insist that they overreact in a similarly improper way in other sitautions. "

You know, I disagree. I think it absolutely does mean we should insist that they apply their demonstrated practices evenly across the board. They're not going to stop having this double standard until a bunch of "their" people get caught in it and are forced to see how ridiculous it is.
12.20.2006 3:56pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
1. It's been noted that Streamas wasn't a professor of the student in question. That may be true; on the other hand, man, if he was my professor, I'd sure be hesitant about expressing any non-PC views in his classroom.

2. Cornellian mentioned something about the Republicans alienating the country's fastest-growing demographic. On the other hand, I seem to remember reading a study to the effect that, after one or two generations have passed and they get settled in, Latino families are about as opposed to *illegal* immigration as anyone else. Don't have a cite, though -- does anyone know if this is true?

3. Finally, this reminds me of the Ward Churchill case in at least one respect. It's true that some conservatives called for his firing, but most of the more sophisticated (IMO) critics said the proper focus was on the university itself. What kind of system would approve tenure for a guy like that? Is that normal, or did he somehow fall through the cracks? etc.

- Alaska Jack
12.20.2006 3:57pm
Barry Sanders 20 (mail):
Did you see this professor's research and teaching interests?

From the university web site:

Research interests

Streamas's interests include the racializing of poverty, the racializing of wartime cultures, race and geography, constructions of Pacific peoples in American popular culture, "war brides," race in children's culture, the imperative of a narrative theory of race, and the prospects for cross-racial solidarities.

Teaching interests

Streamas teaches introductory Ethnic Studies and Asian Pacific American Studies as well as Asian Pacific American literature, culture and power, theories of race and ethnicity, and Asian Pacific American women. He hopes to develop courses in race and war, race and geography, race and poverty, and race and university policy.

What, no interest in race and obsessive-compulsive disorder?
12.20.2006 4:04pm
MoreOn187 (mail) (www):
Two months before the vote, Prop. 187 had support of 52% of Hispanics, details at the link.
12.20.2006 4:07pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
- As others have stated, the reaction to and treatment of the professor would be entirely different if the object of the insult were a minority.

- The notion that minorities can't be racist is complete nonsense.

- When Mexico strictly enforces its immigration laws and policies with Guatemala is it inherently racist? If you're another race and I want to enter your home without your permission is it racist for you to keep me out?
12.20.2006 4:08pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Alaska Jack:

Since he specializes in race studies, only people predisposed to believe whatever he says about the evils of those with white skin would be there in the first place.

But it depends on the university. Some of them require a number of "diversity" courses for ALL students in order to graduate.

In other words, for an engineering degree understanding racial construction is just as important as understanding bridge contruction.

As to your second point, people who oppose illegal immigration could avoid a lot of grief if they championed increasing legal immigration at the same time. But the problem with that is, even if you did, the media would exclude that bit of "unnecessary" information as being irrevelant to the story they want to tell: "Rebublicans are bigots".
12.20.2006 4:10pm
Guest2 (mail):

"The fence was a racist attack upon us." (emphasis added)



Does anybody know what Streamas means by "us"? I can't tell from his webpage what his race/ethnicity is. It just says he was born in Tokyo and raised in Ohio.
12.20.2006 4:10pm
Veeshir (mail):
Prof. Streamas's view is that "The fence is no different than a Confederate flag or a swastika."

He's a college prof and he doesn't when to use "from" instead of "than"? That should be a firing offense for any college prof, forget about the racist comments.
12.20.2006 4:14pm
Adeez (mail):
"He and others are redefining the term 'racism' in a way that's pretty far removed from its normal meaning -- which is racial hostility"

I respectfully disagree with Prof. Volokh. "Racism" is the belief that one is superior to another by virtue of their respective races. Superiority is the key, not necessarily hostility. Example: all blacks are akin to small puppies who need to be coddled and raised in captivity because they cannot thrive on their own. This is a racist attitude b/c it claims that a certain group of people, by virtue of their race exclusively, is inferior to those of other races. No hostility is necessary.

This parsing of language may seem pedantic and trifling. But it's really not. "Racist" is a strong word, and it is very offensive to those amongst us with morals who abhor the concept. Racism proper was once embedded in this country's Constitution and was practiced on a large scale in the south for quite some time. Thankfully, racism is rare these days, and what most of us call racism is actually bigotry, prejudice, and/or ignorance. And as a lawyer who practices discrimination law (so to speak), I'm reminded of these distinctions every day.
12.20.2006 4:14pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Adeez: Only problem with your 'definition' of racism is that nobody but you uses it that way(though perhaps they should), on either side of the fence. So it's rather pointless to hold Volokh to your definition, but not either of the parties he talks about.

His definition is certainly more acceptable than the professor's, and that was the point he was making... he was not claiming that his definition was dictionary-perfect.
12.20.2006 4:20pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Racism proper was once embedded in this country's Constitution

Where?
12.20.2006 4:23pm
whit:
ryan, this is exactly the problem with so called academic disciplines/fields of study, like "ethnic studies" etc.

they essentially have an ideological litmus test. recall the controversy not too long ago where social work students were basically forced to write letters etc. expressing specifically liberal pov's

if one enters engineering, etc. one is dealing with science and facts. you can disagree all you want with your professor, in a mechanical engineering class, but if your theories don't hold water, your structure falls down. kind of a self correcting problem.

in my philosophy classes, i was not required to agree with kant, hegel, hume, nietzsche, socrates, etc in order to study them

but in these ethnic studies, women's studies etc. "disciplines" if one is not predisposed to the POLITICAL viewpoints that are accepted in these disciplines, then one simply cannot complete the program, unless one basically lies about your viewpoints. it's just impossible. a friend of mine at Penn dropped out of the women's studies program for this reason. it's ideology masquerading as academics.
12.20.2006 4:26pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Stremas deserved an official letter of reprimand for his language with a note that he had immediately expressed remorse and apologized such that no further discipline was necessary. The reprimand would have established that such comments by faculty violate official policy.

The UW instead established an official policy of double standards which undermines its nominal policies and its credibility. University officials can generally be expected to do exactly the wrong thing in such matters, at least until they are sued.
12.20.2006 4:28pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Do the professors, administrators, and students at major universities have any idea how foolish they look with this silly game of speech codes and sensitivity? They treat themselves as intellectual and emotional weaklings who have to be constantly protected from the big, bad world. How do people get like this?
12.20.2006 4:28pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
Barry - Wow! RaceRaceRaceRace! You know, going over that, I really sincerely wonder -- Does the good professor actually believe all that stuff, or has he just stumbled upon a good gig that pays the bills? Tenured, fire-breathing racial agitator for a university, and whatnot.

- Alaska Jack

PS I couldn't help but notice that the letters in your post were all BLACK, surrounded and permeated by a vast, oppressive field of WHITEspace. Coincidence? You tell me.
12.20.2006 4:31pm
Patrick Carroll (mail):
Streamas's biography makes for interesting reading:

=====
Streamas's interests include ... prospects for cross-racial solidarities.
=====

I'm guessing his current assessment about "prospects for cross-racial solidarities" is "pretty low."
12.20.2006 4:46pm
Genob (mail):

Racism proper was once embedded in this country's Constitution

Where?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-fifths_compromise
12.20.2006 4:51pm
Jeek:
I think the "protester" filed the complaint not to be a "crybaby," but to show exactly that the University does not apply its policies equally to everyone. If nothing else, it exposes hypocrisy.

Well, the Left should be right on board with the protest, then, since they think hypocrisy is a Heinous Sin That Must Always Be Exposed.

Streamas's interests include the racializing of poverty, the racializing of wartime cultures, race and geography, constructions of Pacific peoples in American popular culture, "war brides," race in children's culture, the imperative of a narrative theory of race, and the prospects for cross-racial solidarities.

"Cross-racial solidarity" presumably excludes solidarity with white shitbags.

Without a doubt, any prof who called a black student a black shitbag would be out in the street in two seconds flat. Streamas should be fired immediately.
12.20.2006 4:57pm
Russ (mail):
Genob,

Do you even know the history behind the "three-fifths" clause? It wasn't as racial as you imply. The South wanted to count all slaves as whole persons for the purpose of the census, thus giving them more representation in Congress, and the North wanted to not count slaves at all.

It came back to the balance of power in Congress, not racism.
12.20.2006 5:03pm
Adeez (mail):
OK, so we're talking about a group of people (slaves), who belong to that group solely by virtue of their race. The Constitution is being drafted, and the big debate centers around whether these group members should be even counted as persons. That's not "racial?"

I'd go one further, and say that that's pure racism: their skin color determines their fundamental rights. And before anyone brings up the issues: yes, it was classist and sexist too for its omission of non property holders and women.

And Ryan, I was not criticizing Prof. Volokh. Of course his definition was closer to the truth than those proffered by the knuckleheads in this story. I don't think Prof. Volokh is threatened by me. Yes, I'm sure he's smarter and better educated than I. I don't think that precludes me from adding my 2 cents when I think he's slightly wrong on an issue. That I believe is the point of this forum: to add reasoned commentary in a respectful way to foster academic debate. If he states that the Yankees won the World Series last year, I will write-in and say he's wrong. Just because most people don't use the term "racism" correctly doesn't mean we all ought to abuse the term and strip it of any real meaning.

Peace.
12.20.2006 5:14pm
LAS (mail):
Yesterday I said I will always speculate about a decision that on its face appears racially biased, when it involves a black person and especially when the bias is oh so subtle, so un-discoverable. Professor Streamas’ comment is despicable and it doesn’t matter what the history of racial tension or racism is in our country, referring to anybody’s race, insulting them at the same time is racist!

IMO, Prof. Steamas cannot redefine racist behavior. He can split hairs if he wants. He’s making a poor attempt at defending an action that HE would find unacceptable. His argument and others who argue that Black folk can’t be racist: Balderdash! I do agree however, that the wounding power goes to the dominant group. And, while he may or may not have been an affirmative action hire, he should be held to a higher standard than students. His employment should be terminated.

BTW, TallDave:
White is a color.

David Chesler:
It starts in the preamble: “We the people…”
I’m speculating that ‘we’ and ‘people’ are not intended to include black folks.
12.20.2006 5:18pm
Shelby (mail):
Adeez:

No, nobody belonged to anybody "solely by virtue of their race." Most were slaves because they had been enslaved; the place of enslaving was a region of Africa where only black people lived. Some (later, on, most) were slaves because their parents had been slaves. It was legal, albeit uncommon, for a white person to be enslaved in most states. It was legal for a black person to be free in the Northern states, and at times in various of the Southern ones.

Don't confuse the overlap between blackness and slavery in the US with cause and effect.
12.20.2006 5:18pm
Genob (mail):
Russ,

Are you saying that only Southerners could be racist in 1787? Or just that Northerners cared only about political power rather than carried some belief about inherent inferiority of enslaved blacks in the South, and that therefore it's not racism, but just a convenient way to reduce the South's effective population? (Surely it's not controversial to roughly equate slave with race in the South in 1787)

Anyway, I didn't make the original point, but was only assuming that's what the poster meant.
12.20.2006 5:19pm
jeff kline (mail):
The last year at Washington State has been a poor one in this regard. The Department of Education tried to expell a student for wearing a hunting hat and listening to Rush Limbaugh. The President bought tickets and distributed them to students to disrupt the play 'The Mangina Monologues'— evidently a spoof on the 'V. Monologues'. Now this.

My alma mater has changed in the last 20 years, and they will never, ever get dime one from me again.
12.20.2006 5:25pm
lucia (mail) (www):
I can't believe no one has remarked on Streamas's "turn-ons" which include: Nerf, bobble-heads, The Patch, cephalopods, world peace.

Interestingly, his turn-offs include hyphens which he uses in the words "bobble-heads", "turn-ons" or "turn-offs". Somehow, he left "white shit-bags" off his list of turn-offs.
12.20.2006 5:27pm
PersonFromPorlock:
One other point not yet touched on: doesn't "white shitbag" seem like an awfully, er, puny expression? Kind of childish? Perhaps the professor needs to apologize not only for what he said but for saying it in such a namby-pamby way.
12.20.2006 5:27pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-fifths_compromise:
The final compromise of counting slaves as only three fifths of their actual numbers reduced the power of the slave states

If Blacks were counted as full people (which is not what the compromise says anyway) it would have increased the power of the slave states. Free Blacks were counted the same as free Whites in both northern and southern states.

I've tried to find the laws that said "All Blacks are slaves, all Whites are free". Where was it? (Seriously, how did they come up with all of it? I never saw Amistad, but where did they get the notion that enslavement [as opposed to slavery] was legal? [I had the same question when I did see Gladiator.] I once was given a citation to an old Virginia case about a runaway slave where the court said something like "If he looks Black, it's pretty likely he is an escaped slave; if he looks White or Indian it's pretty unlikely he is an escaped slave" but that's descriptive, not prescriptive.)

Recall that Racism proper was once embedded in this country's Constitution is in the same comment that defines "Racism" is the belief that one is superior to another by virtue of their respective races.

So I'm looking for something that is actually in (embedded in) the Constitution that says some individuals are superior to other individuals by virtue of their respective races.

The framework provided by the Constitution clearly allowed for slavery (prior of course to the 13th Amendment) but it did not require that the slavery be race-based. One may as well point to the 1st Amendment since it can be applied to protect racist speech.
12.20.2006 5:29pm
Spartacus (www):
"M.E.Butler:

Or, it may have been the color of the shit. Once, when the dog was sick, her shit was white. I can see the good prof coming in to ask for the "white shitbag"."

Then it would have been a "white-shit bag." Check the rules on hyphenation!
12.20.2006 5:30pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
> OK, so we're talking about a group of people (slaves), who belong to that group solely by virtue of their race. The Constitution is being drafted, and the big debate centers around whether these group members should be even counted as persons. That's not "racial?"

No, it's not. Otherwise the racist slaveowners would be the ones denying that slaves counted as a human being, not the reverse.

There are two distinct issues here that you are purposefully conflating.

Issue 1 is "Do slaves count towards census population", which is a question about POWER, not race.

Issue 2 is "Do slaves have equal rights under the law", which *is* a racial question, but this question did not enter the constitution. Anyone with a functioning brain can see that, because if it did, the slaveowners would have OPPOSED it, not supported it.

Indeed, the constitution bears credit for making the slaves equal. It plainly states, in many ways overt and implied, that all men are equal under the law. And therefore, once people got it pounded into their thick skulls that blacks were men, the constitution allowed them no way to (legally) make them a lesser class, because one of the constiution's main purposes is to eliminate classes.

In other words, once slaves become free, the constitution guaranteed they would eventually become equal.
12.20.2006 5:31pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
It starts in the preamble: “We the people…”
I’m speculating that ‘we’ and ‘people’ are not intended to include black folks.


If only I had taken Ethnic Studies I would have understood that "We" is a codeword for white people.
12.20.2006 5:32pm
DeezRightWingNutz:

The Constitution is being drafted, and the big debate centers around whether these group members should be even counted as persons. That's not "racial?"


Slavery was clearly an evil practice bolstered by (or rationalized away?) by a racist mindset. The problem with the usual claim that the three-fifths compromise was racist, the claim that the Constitution didn't consider slaves fully human, is that the non-racists wanted the slaves to be non-entities, and the racists wanted them would have argued they should count double. If the southern states had somehow gotten a "slaves count as 6/5 of a person," it wouldn't have been because they thought a slave's worth as a person was greater than a free white person.
12.20.2006 5:33pm
El Gabo Gringo (www):
From elGaboGringo:

Anybody who wants to see REAL RACISM need only go south of the border where all the white (Mexican) people drive cars and all the brown (Mexican) people take the bus. Where white (Mexican) people eat at nice restaurants and brown (Mexican) people work at them. In fact, we American's offer brown Mexicans more opportunity and better treatment then they would ever get anywhere in Latin America... And what do we get for it? We get called "White Shitbags."

These "Chicanos" are frauds. They don't know the first thing about Mexico or their Latin Heritage. They are just run of the mill anti-American leftists that will do or say anything to undermine our countries foundations, calling us all sorts of names in the process.
12.20.2006 5:34pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
The Constitution also guaranteed the continued existence of the slave trade until at least 1808:

[Art. 1, Sec. 9] Clause 1: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
12.20.2006 5:34pm
jncc (mail):
Pat - aww c'mon why inject reality into the beautiful theories that were being spun . . .
12.20.2006 5:40pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
And to those arguing that the Constitution says nothing about slavery being based on race, that's one of those technically correct, but utterly wrong in real life answers. If you were a slave, you were not a "person" under the Constitution in 1789. And there were no white slaves. The only slaves, so far as I know, were Africans. Period. The Constitution also doesn't say that the sun will rise in the east; it's understood and assumed, it was such a fundamental part of life.

Yes, there were freemen of color, who were on the whole protected by the Constitution. But the Constitution allowed, contemplated, and protected the ongoing institution of slavery, which was fundamentally based on the concept that black people were subhuman.

And you know what? The civil war was also, in fact, about slavery.
12.20.2006 5:41pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Pat - Although that's a better indicator of racism than the "3/5 rule", it doesn't rise to the level of "racism written into the constitution".

It does not offer any opinion on races whatsoever: it merely delays the debate, and obviously does so as part of a compromise to get the constitution passed.

Jncc's definition of "reality" is obviously nothing more than "something I agree with". Thank you for your 'contribution'.
12.20.2006 5:43pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Under the Constitution, importation of non-Black slaves was also allowed.
There was certainly racism in 1789, there were certainly racists, but it wasn't in the Constitution.
Allowing racism is not the same as containing racism.
12.20.2006 5:43pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
"I don't think that any such double standard is fair. But just because universities are likely to improperly overreact in one situation doesn't mean that we should insist that they overreact in a similarly improper way in other sitautions. "
Unless doing so disadvantages those who currently benefit from injustice, and give them incentive to change the rules.

"The other alternative is that the "Right" will just become a bunch of aggrieved bed-wetters who revel in their perceived persecution - just like so many on the "Left" do. Not attractive."
While this is a possible outcome, the hope is that once PC speech codes start to benefit the right and harm the left they'll be dropped like a hot potatoe because their whole raison d'etre will
12.20.2006 5:48pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Allowing the designation of a certain group of human beings as subhuman, nothing more than property, is indeed containing racist principles.
12.20.2006 5:50pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Ryan, I'm not passing judgment on the merits of including the compromise to accomplish a greater good in the long run. I'm just saying that it is valid to say that there is racism embedded in the Constitution itself.
12.20.2006 5:51pm
GMUSL 3L (mail):
Pat -- so allowing slavery of children, regardless of race, would be racist? Interesting theory, but I think your formulation is missing a few more constraints to fit reality.
12.20.2006 5:55pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
So if the Constitution says "If you kill someone, you become the slave of his family", that would be racist? (Does it have to be chattel slavery for it to count?)

The current set of laws allow the designation of groups as subhuman. "Liberals are subhuman!" There I said it, and it's protected.

I own a pen. I can use the pen to write racist stuff. Is it accurate to say that the pen contains racism?
12.20.2006 5:57pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Talk about historical ignorance... Pat, anti-slavery advocates were at least equally as politically strong as those who tolerated it. YOUR OWN ARGUMENT acknowledges this dynamic... slaveholders wouldn't have insisted on a clause to delay congressional action on racism unless they were actually afraid that the new government was going to move to limit/eliminate slavery.

Obviously, a possibility of immediate sanctions against slavery was a deal-breaker for the slaveholders. Just as obviously, any choice of words permanently relegating blacks to slavery was a deal-breaker for the anti-slavers. That's why you don't see any mentions of races in the constution.

That kind of explicit racist language was purposfully excluded, not by accident. But that doesn't stop people from grabbing their magnifying glasses, searching for the implied racism because they've determined prior to the search that there's just got to be a pony in there somewhere.
12.20.2006 5:59pm
jncc (mail):

slaveholders wouldn't have insisted on a clause to delay congressional action on racism unless they were actually afraid that the new government was going to move to limit/eliminate slavery.

But remember, "delaying congressional action on racism" is different from containing racism.

Your arguments are as transparent as those in the Yick Wo v. Hopkins.
12.20.2006 6:04pm
jncc (mail):
You see the fact that almost all of the slaves were black is just a co-inky-dink, as my dear grandma would say.
12.20.2006 6:05pm
Bryan DB:
Prof. Volokh,
""The fence is no different than a Confederate flag or a swastika." Than a swastika? "
I think that's probably right. It's a symbol meant to inflame passions and not to invite reasoned debate on a subject. In that sense, the comparison is apt.
And as to your data showing how many people support anti-illegal-immigration policies (which I don't dispute), you might also look at how many anti-illegal-immigration legislators up for reelection this past fall actually kept their seats. The showings were pretty dismal in places where the issue is more than a mere philosophical debate.
12.20.2006 6:08pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
If by "transparent", you mean "clear", then I agree.

Certainly more clear than claiming that a delay of a descision is exactly equal to a judgment for one of the parties.

Remember, racism is a judgement (about the superiority of races). This is blindingly obvious: indeed its the very definition of racism. And the clause offers no judgment whatsoever on any race. Hence it cannot be racist. By definition.
12.20.2006 6:11pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
You see the fact that almost all of the slaves were black is just a co-inky-dink

No, it is evidence of racism in the society. It is not, however, evidence of racism in the Constitution.

Nobody has denied that racism by any definition existed in 1789 (nor for that matter that it exists today.)
12.20.2006 6:12pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Bryan> "It's a symbol meant to inflame passions and not to invite reasoned debate on a subject. In that sense, the comparison is apt."

Oh, so flag-burning (or bra-burning) is just like a swastika, eh? After all, both fit the definition you gave.
12.20.2006 6:13pm
Anon.:
Even arguing that certain races can't be racist is racist. He's obviously a crazy racist douchebag who needs to be fired.
12.20.2006 6:15pm
dpt (mail):
"because he argues that a person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking."

I agree with the good professor. A person of color cannot be racist.

Though, I would not hesitate calling him a bigot.
12.20.2006 6:16pm
GMUSL 3L (mail):
jncc, as far as the Constitution is concerned, yes -- unless you can show me something in it referring to different rights of non-slaves depending on their race.

David Chesler is correct in that it shows racism in the society, not the Constitution. If you're familar with language used in challenges to legislation, it's not facially racist, it's racist as applied.
12.20.2006 6:23pm
RBG (mail):
Ryan,
Not to mention those equal-pay bake sales, which were apparently okay to Justin (see way above) when they were put on by inflammatory feminists in the 70s, but are not when put on by inflammatory conservatives in the 00s.
12.20.2006 6:28pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Genob


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-fifths_compromise


That's the second time in this thread that wikipedia is quoted as authoritative about the law. Gave me a good laugh both times.

Patrick Carroll


Streamas's interests include ... prospects for cross-racial solidarities.

I'm guessing his current assessment about "prospects for cross-racial solidarities" is "pretty low."


Corss-racial solidarities is code for having lots of sex with white women. Just sticking it to the man, figuratively and literally so to speak.

Says the "Dog"
12.20.2006 6:41pm
Guest2 (mail):

Corss-racial solidarities is code for having lots of sex with white women. Just sticking it to the man, figuratively and literally so to speak.



Having sex with white women isn't literally sticking it to the man.
12.20.2006 6:45pm
plunge (mail):
So, was the kid a shitbag, regardless of race? Sure sounds like it. College Republicans are pretty much to man a bunch of arrogant, preening shitbags, backstabbing their way through their organization to a juicy "who do you know?" appointment to some think tank or lobbying firm.

The problem was simply singling him out for his race.
12.20.2006 6:50pm
Justin (mail):
"Ryan,
Not to mention those equal-pay bake sales, which were apparently okay to Justin (see way above) when they were put on by inflammatory feminists in the 70s, but are not when put on by inflammatory conservatives in the 00s."

Uhhh, do you want me to cite to me mentioning, much less condoning, these bake sales that I don't even have any knowledge about? Or is slander just fun for you?
12.20.2006 6:52pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Plunge, are you planning on providing evidence for your assertion, or is your strategy to deflect the discussion away from racist bigotry by spewing a different kind of bigotry?
12.20.2006 6:55pm
Civil Rights:
Yo,

It aint racist if a white person calls another white person a white shithead - Prof was white - the shithead was white - case closed.
12.20.2006 7:01pm
michael (mail) (www):
I could say, that it being the Christmas season, we want to see somebody manic and grandiose (and public) not get away with it as sort of a counterbalance, echt Dr. Volokh. Ethnic studies is related to academic fashions in general. For a while vitamin actions and related metabolism might be fundable in biochemistry; then it will seem to be, 'Well, we may have learned what we can from that; let's replace that with studies that use transfection.' In the future, 'ethnic studies' might preferably include 'the impact of the writings of the Latin Cicero on the development of the American Constitution.'
12.20.2006 7:02pm
happy ruthy (www):
I would have fired Professor Shitbag, not because he insulted another but because his self-victimization makes him unfit to teach our young.
12.20.2006 7:05pm
Shelby (mail):
Just out of curiosity, Michael, were any drugs involved in the production of that comment? Because I can't make heads or tails of it.
12.20.2006 7:06pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Micheal -

When hell freezes over, maybe. Racial awareness is about EXCLUSION, not inclusion. Ever see bratwurst, brie or bigos stew at your college "diversity" food fair? No? Because the point is to exclude people who came here from Europe.

Maybe if I was Bryan, I'd say diversity events are no better than Jim Crow laws, with whites at the back of the bus.
12.20.2006 7:14pm
Mark Field (mail):

jncc, as far as the Constitution is concerned, yes -- unless you can show me something in it referring to different rights of non-slaves depending on their race.

David Chesler is correct in that it shows racism in the society, not the Constitution. If you're familar with language used in challenges to legislation, it's not facially racist, it's racist as applied.


Yes, the Constitution was facially neutral. However, it's also true that most Americans prior to the Civil War considered that it protected slavery -- certainly a form of racism -- and permitted discriminatory laws against free blacks (also racist). It wasn't just the slaveholders who took this position. William Lloyd Garrison did also and famously burned a copy of the Constitution while declaring it an "agreement with death and a covenant with Hell".

Now, can we get back on topic?
12.20.2006 7:18pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Professor Volokh, I completely agree with you about 'a rule.' I just doubt that WSU has 'a rule.' I strongly suspect it has two rules.

I also suggest that, at a minimum, the WSU professor should be required to take a lengthy course of sensitivity training with a suitable pale person.
12.20.2006 7:30pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
The fact that some people intentionally misinterpeted the constitution to serve their own ends, even though the text was scrubbed free of racist language, does not mean the document was racist... it means the people who twisted it were.

Your choice of the term 'facially neutral' is telling. Another way to put it would be 'LITERALLY neutral', but that more accurate term wouldn't advance your agenda.

We *are* on topic, since the dishonest, manipulative misreading of the underlying contract of this country... the constitution... is a vital support of the idea of non-whites as part of a permanent 'victim' class. This idea, which the professor relies on to make his judgment that there is no racism possible to a white person, is the very heart of what's objectionable about his statement.
12.20.2006 7:31pm
AntiCitizenOne (mail):

Example: all blacks are akin to small puppies who need to be coddled and raised in captivity because they cannot thrive on their own.

I couldn't think of a better example of "affirmitive action"
12.20.2006 7:32pm
jack (mail):
The reason that the Constitution does not explicitly address the race of slaves is precisely because there were slaves of races other than black. Race was not the issue. The status of ones' freedom was.

There were far fewer white slaves than black, red, brown or yellow at the time because they were much harder to get. As such, slavers sold them in markets where they would command higher prices.
12.20.2006 7:37pm
Adeez (mail):
"Anyone with a functioning brain can see that, because if it did, the slaveowners would have OPPOSED it, not supported it." -Ryan

Beautiful! You continue to make very nuanced arguments over semantics in order to support your claim. I appreciate intelligent dialogue and arguments based on facts and reason. So you craft very careful, detailed arguments to support your non-obvious position. But you then proceed to punctuate your comments with "anyone with a functioning brain." So I guess us morons here who have the temerity to assert that the Constitution is somewhat racist in that it treats blacks as less-than-human all lack functioning brains. Yup, we're all fuckin vegetables.

As a variation on what my basketball coaches used to tell us all the time: as smart and well-read as you may think you are, there are thousands of people out there smarter and better educated. Our position is eminently reasonable, and if you have to resort to comments like that, than you cannot be taken seriously.

Oh, and ironically you proved my initial point when you stated "racism is a judgement (about the superiority of races)" If you recall, my initial comment that you attacked made that very same assertion: racism is about a feeling of superiority as opposed to hostility. I wasn't picking a fight or trying to one-up Prof. Volokh.

Now go ahead ducky, and put single quotes around my 'argument.' Because it's not 'insightful' enough for a herb as 'bright' as you.
12.20.2006 7:39pm
michael (mail) (www):
OK, Shelby. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of someone who claimed to be G-d. That would be seen, in most people, as grandiosity. Prof. S seemed to take a grandiose (belittling, contemptuous), irritated reaction to the student's diarama of his position on immigration. Prof. S, a hypothetically grandiose person in this presentation, gets taken down as the university action and comments show. This is a counterbalance to the uplifting of another person, Christ, who by his assertion would, if he were any modern person, be seen as grandiose, though it is his season, Christmas. The rest is perhaps less obscure.
12.20.2006 7:39pm
Al (mail):
>>the WSU professor should be required to take a lengthy course of sensitivity training with a suitable pale person.

Harry, I am personally offended by your use of the term "pale person." The correct term is "person of paleness." Please be more sensitive next time.
12.20.2006 7:43pm
Tom Forbes (mail) (www):
This was not Streamas' first run-in with the administration this year.

My blog, Palousitics, has been covering these whole incident in detail from Day One (that's where Professor Volokh found the report).  Several of the WSU College Republicans involved are contributors to the blog.
 
You can find video of John Streamas here.
 
A much more disturbing video can be found here, showing another WSU Comparative Ethnic Studies professor, David Leonard, demanding one of the College Republican's student ID and abusing his authority to have the camera turned off. This matter is still being investigated.
12.20.2006 8:00pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Adeez...

I don't see how people think they can get away with quote-chopping in a comments section where the original text is a page above. The actual quote follows:

"Do slaves have equal rights under the law", which *is* a racial question, but this question did not enter the constitution. Anyone with a functioning brain can see that, because if it did, the slaveowners would have OPPOSED it, not supported it.


As you can see, nowhere in that quote is a claim that everyone who disagrees with me has no functioing brain. Which makes you a liar... and an incompetant one, at that.

As you can see, what I *did* day was that a functioning brain would tell you that slaveowners wouldn't support equal rights for blacks and hence their support for 3/5 rule therefore means that the 3/5 rule had nothing to do with race rights. If that's too mentally demanding for you to puzzle out, then you do indeed deserve every ounce of the "functioning brain" remark.
12.20.2006 8:02pm
Mark Field (mail):

The fact that some people intentionally misinterpeted the constitution to serve their own ends, even though the text was scrubbed free of racist language, does not mean the document was racist... it means the people who twisted it were.


It wasn't "some people", it was the vast majority of Americans. It's extremely difficult to find people before the Civil War who refused to acknowledge that the Constitution contained compromises which enabled slavery. Anyone who reads the debates in the Convention can see that the issue of slavery was frankly discussed; that Southern representatives expressly stated that there would be no union without slavery; and that deals were made which eliminated any direct reference to the practice but which everyone understood the practical effect of.


Your choice of the term 'facially neutral' is telling. Another way to put it would be 'LITERALLY neutral', but that more accurate term wouldn't advance your agenda.


My agenda? I have made exactly one post in this thread prior to this one. How do you know I even have an agenda, much less what it might be (if I had one)?

If I have any goal here, it's to clarify the historical facts regarding slavery. If you're interested in the subject, I recommend this book. I think the author makes a good case that the Constitution was not racist, but that doesn't mean that there aren't significant counter-arguments.

We *are* on topic, since the dishonest, manipulative misreading of the underlying contract of this country... the constitution... is a vital support of the idea of non-whites as part of a permanent 'victim' class. This idea, which the professor relies on to make his judgment that there is no racism possible to a white person, is the very heart of what's objectionable about his statement.


The Constitution's role in the history of racism in America seems much less important to the professor's point than the actual practice of racism over a period of more than 350 years.

Oh, and for the record, I disagree with the professor.
12.20.2006 8:10pm
Shelby (mail):
Michael:

(1) I don't think most people think "grandiosity" when Christmas approaches, not even non-Christians. That would kind of miss the point of religion.

(2) Who is this "we" who "want to see somebody manic and grandiose (and public) not get away with it as sort of a counterbalance"? Prof. S. may be publicly stupid, but that doesn't make him manic or grandiose. And really, how many people think "hmm, Christmastime. I need to see some counterbalancing grandiosity meet its comeuppance"? Really, now.

(3) "echt Dr. Volokh" ???

(4) "For a while vitamin actions and related metabolism might be fundable in biochemistry; then it will seem to be, 'Well, we may have learned what we can from that; let's replace that with studies that use transfection.'"
(a) How do you get from ethnic studies to metabolism research as a matter of academic fashion? Even if technically tenable, it's quite a stretch.
(b) transfection? If this is a term applicable to biochimical research, it's mighty obscure for the rest of us.

(5) "In the future, 'ethnic studies' might preferably include 'the impact of the writings of the Latin Cicero on the development of the American Constitution.'"
Potentially, I suppose, but no time soon. More to the point, how does this flow from anything else you've said?
12.20.2006 8:16pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
The portrayal of the constitution as racist is vital to any effort to permenantly keep laws that divvy up the american pie according to that color your skin is.

Jim Crow is a powerful argument, but what happens when the last person who directly experienced it dies? What happens to the handouts and the patronage system? Obviously, there must be something more permanent to point to... and that's where blaming the constitution comes in, because it's a semi-clever way to keep the payouts coming as long as there's a constitution.

But I called it only semi-clever for a reason: People who use that justification should simply be asked precisely what racist lines of text need to be removed to free minorities from its murderous, enslaving, genocidal embrace. The "3/5 rule" has been repealed. The "slave delay" has been expired for centuries. The courts have held that Jim Crow and slavery were *never* constitutional to begin with.

So, tell me what lines we need to remove, to lift the heavy shackles of oppression from our fellow americans. No, you don't get to add stuff, because this discussion is about racism already existing in the document.

Quote the lines we need to cut, or let an ashamed silence be your answer.
12.20.2006 8:17pm
Brant (mail):
Inappropiate insult: "White shitbag!"

Shitbag response 1: "Mr. Dean, sir, he called me a 'White Shitbag! I'm actually really hurt! Fire him!"

Alternate interpretation of Shitbag response: "Mr. Dean, sir, he called me a 'White Shitbag!' I want to make a statement about the administration's unequal response to calling someone offensive names based on being black as opposed to being white!"

Facetious Shitbag response used to set up a false dichotomy: Forego the law and punch Prof. Insult in the nose.

Available Non-shitbag response: Act like a damned adult and realize you're neither a victim nor a hero. If after you've thought about the situation and still believe that you are not actually a shitbag, and feel you have to do something, then laugh.

Of course, my own personal opinion is that foregoing words and instead using riduculous visual tools like 24 foot fences or paper mache Dick Cheneys does, indeed, make you shitbag.
12.20.2006 8:29pm
microtherion:
Wouldn't the correct epithet have been "white, non-hispanic shitbag" anyway?
12.20.2006 8:32pm
Justin (mail):
Wait? This is a *white* professor????

I mean, I'm not sure of his race, because people who look white could still be a fair-skinned hispanic or other, but if so, then I think Eugene Volokh probably owes him quite a bit of an apology.
12.20.2006 8:37pm
Justin (mail):
PS That doesn't mean that cursing out a student, even one not in his clas, is ok, but the racism angle would look kind of stupid.
12.20.2006 8:39pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Professor Seamas is a jerk and holds silly views, but why does the University have to punish him?


Because that’s what supposed to happen to employees who insult both their customers (tuition-paying students) and employers (taxpayers) with racist insults while on the job.
12.20.2006 8:39pm
michael (mail) (www):
Thanks, Shelby. I'll take another shot at it. I'll refer to your points in you're numbering above. (1): I do think many adults get beaten down by Christmas. It is, in America, generally rescued by a 'Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus' attitude. In this attitude, people generally ((2), "we" in my previous comments) take a cause in which there is a substantial power difference relationship, an adult to a child, and treat them very kindly. In this, we act as more or less all powerful and treat them, the power deficient, in such a way as to raise them to our imputed stature. Finding ourselves as power deficient in relation to Christ as implied in Christmas is often more problematic, and I beleive there is something in that as to why people feel beaten down. (3): echt, a Yiddish word for truly. (4)&(5): 'Science' has earlier been suggested to be some 'certain thing.' Though empirical, there are changes in what is seen as appropriate, and I am suggesting that may occur also in 'ethnic studies.'
12.20.2006 8:48pm
Porkchop (mail):
I practice a LOT of cross-racial solidarity with my "wife of color." She burst out laughing when I told her about the assertion that "people of color" can't be racist.
12.20.2006 8:49pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

if (Seamas is white), then I think Eugene Volokh probably owes him quite a bit of an apology.


If you bothered to check the complaint, you would have read this sentence:

Respondant insists that he did not utter the phrase as an expression of racism, in part, because he argues that a person of color cannot be racist


Which is also mentioned by Eugene, above. So obviously he considers HIMSELF a person of color, whatever you consider him to be or not.

Also, during an earlier incident, he said:


"My challenge to the star chamber of elitist administrators is this: give up your presumption to dictate race policy, and turn it over to us knowledgeable and committed students and faculty of color who truly practice the diversity that you only preach. ... If you persist in your current practice, we will just have to win the race war you started against us."


You're right Justin, he couldn't be a fanatical, fire-breathing racist. He's simply helping people fight back against the race war that the star chamber is waging upon him. Presumably after he defeats Smaug, Karl Rove, the dark lords of the Sith, and the evil Decepticons.

Yeah, I think we owe the fine man an apology, don't you? Just try not to get within biting range when you do it...
12.20.2006 9:04pm
jamesmalcolm (mail):
Saying someone cannot be racist by definition because of powerlessness is a subtle form of racism in itself. It robs blacks, for example, of their humanity and denies them the capacity to hate irrationally along with all other humans. Just another silly, and overly protected, academic.
12.20.2006 9:11pm
Phil (mail):
At this risk of being insensitive on another level, does anyone suppose that this is similar to the Ward Churchill matter in another way? Both professors were professors of irrelevancy studies at (to be fair) non-elite universities. (I am not trying to slight either WSU or Colorado; the univeristy at which I used to teach was probably not much better than the former and definitely inferior to the latter.) I met many faculty in the faculty of law when I was studying at Cambridge whose politics were probably not that different, and I cannot recall any statements in any context that were even vaguely similar. I do not want to engage in psycho-babble (though maybe I am), but is it not at least possible that this professor was reacting to his own feelings of inadequacy? Much earlier in my academic career, I took Marxist philosophy at Notre Dame and the professor's politics were definitely not mine, but I cannot imagine him calling a student names, ever.

Porkchop-I also practice cross-racial solidarity with my wife of color, but she finds all this nonsense pointless.
12.20.2006 9:17pm
Mark Field (mail):

The portrayal of the constitution as racist is vital to any effort to permenantly keep laws that divvy up the american pie according to that color your skin is.


If this is directed to me, I'm not arguing that the Constitution is now racist. I can't take the time to go back and read every post right now, but I don't recall anyone in this thread making that argument.

My participation has been limited to pointing out historical facts, namely that the original Constitution could reasonably seen as pro-slavery and was seen that way by most Americas prior to the Civil War.


The courts have held that Jim Crow and slavery were *never* constitutional to begin with.


I don't know what court decisions you're thinking of, but they're kind of irrelevant in light of the fact that at the time, courts upheld racist practices (Dred Scott, Plessy, etc.).


Quote the lines we need to cut, or let an ashamed silence be your answer.


I'll assume this is directed to someone else, since I've already said I disagree with the professor.
12.20.2006 9:23pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

I'm not arguing that the Constitution is now racist. I can't take the time to go back and read every post right now, but I don't recall anyone in this thread making that argument.


I see. On what date were the racist parts of the constitution removed, and what were they?
12.20.2006 9:29pm
therut:
In the history of humankind which came first slavery or racism. Only quasi-academic writings today make a college student think it was developed only by pure White Europeans and only Black Africans were ever slaves. Has there ever been a non-racist race of people or one that never practiced slavery on others or their own? And was slavery always based on racism or was some based on tradition,trade and status.
12.20.2006 9:37pm
Mark Field (mail):

On what date were the racist parts of the constitution removed, and what were they?


Your question is silly in light of my previous posts. I'll answer it this way: ratification of the Civil War Amendments (13, 14, 15) confirmed that the racist constructions previously given to the Constitution should not be given in the future. Sadly, other racist constructions continued until the dismantling of Jim Crow and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after which they died out in respectable discourse.
12.20.2006 9:53pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Not one of those examples involves removal of already-existing racism written into the constitution. Thank you for confirming that no racism was written into the constitution.
12.20.2006 9:59pm
Mark Field (mail):

Not one of those examples involves removal of already-existing racism written into the constitution. Thank you for confirming that no racism was written into the constitution.


If you think that's an effective retort, I'm happy to let you post away undisturbed by any further comments from me.
12.20.2006 10:24pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
I find this difficult to believe that I have to explain this to a person on a law blog, but nearly every admendment involves telling the federal and/or governments what they CANNOT do. Not expressly forbidding something is NOT the same as endorsing it: The constitution is also silent on the subject of the education of children. Does this mean that the constitution is anti-intellectual, and hates children? Of course not.

To put it another way, the amendments' function is to declare what topics are to be placed beyond the reach of normal debate and lawmaking. With only 27 amendments, obviously silence on any one issue cannot be construed as support for one side or the other.

You are trying to interpet silence as racism... and failing. Only a fanatic listens to silence and hears racism whispering.
12.20.2006 10:26pm
Slim and Slam:
"Not one of those examples involves removal of already-existing racism written into the constitution. Thank you for confirming that no racism was written into the constitution."

Ryan: you may be right on the constitution, but Mark has not "confirmed" any such thing. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
12.20.2006 10:44pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Mr. Waxx, I find it difficult to believe that I have to explain this to a person on a law blog, but the meaning of the Constitution is not, and never has been, a matter of simply reading the document within the four corners, in isolation from anything else.

You may wish it were, but that's just you wishing.

But let's look at those 4 corners: the Constitution was written to let slave states count 3/5 of their nonvoting, noncitizen, human property for purposes of "representation" in the House. Does that strike you as neutral on the issue of slavery? As Prof. Field points out, it didn't seem that way to very many people at the time.

The Southern states were quite alive to the fear of slavery's abolition, and the 3/5 Clause was one way of helping to provide for a future "leg up" for the South in any national debates over slavery in future.

Those who forget the past, remember, are doomed to appear ignorant on blog threads.
12.20.2006 10:47pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
> But let's look at those 4 corners: the Constitution was written to let slave states count 3/5 of their nonvoting, noncitizen, human property for purposes of "representation" in the House. Does that strike you as neutral on the issue of slavery?

It left the question to the federal and state governments. You can't get more neutral than that. You can claim that being neutral is morally wrong, but you cannot claim it's not neutral.

> Those who forget the past, remember, are doomed to appear ignorant on blog threads.

That's funny, I was thinking the exact same thing.
12.20.2006 10:57pm
AndyInIllinois (mail):
When White servitude is acknowledged as having existed in America, it is almost always termed as temporary "indentured servitude" or part of the convict trade, which, after the Revolution of 1776, centered on Australia instead of America. The "convicts" transported to America under the 1723 Waltham Act, perhaps numbered 100,000.

The indentured servants who served a tidy little period of 4 to 7 years polishing the master's silver and china and then taking their place in colonial high society, were a minuscule fraction of the great unsung hundreds of thousands of White slaves who were worked to death in this country from the early l7th century onward.

Up to one-half of all the arrivals in the American colonies were Whites slaves and they were America's first slaves. These Whites were slaves for life, long before Blacks ever were. This slavery was even hereditary. White children born to White slaves were enslaved too.

Michael A. Hoffman II "They Were White and They Were Slaves"
12.20.2006 11:05pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

Mr. Waxx, I find it difficult to believe that I have to explain this to a person on a law blog, but the meaning of the Constitution is not, and never has been, a matter of simply reading the document within the four corners, in isolation from anything else


Well, I suppose that's as good of a grudging admission as I am ever likely to see that racism is nowhere to be found within the "four corners" of the actual document, especially after the 3/5 rule was dropped centuries ago. That's the closet anyone ever gets to a victory here on the internet...
12.20.2006 11:13pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

especially after the 3/5 rule was dropped centuries ago

How many centuries would that be, Ryan?
12.20.2006 11:20pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Oh, and as long as we are on the subject, the 3/5th compromise was superesed by the following language: "Representatives shall be apportioned ...counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed."
12.20.2006 11:24pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Fine. About one and a half centuries. Got any more nits to pick?
12.20.2006 11:25pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Actually, it was supersceded by the removal of the institution of slavery, 3 years before. You can count non-existant slaves as 3/5 of a person all night, if it helps you get to sleep...
12.20.2006 11:26pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

Actually, it was supersceded by the removal of the institution of slavery, 3 years before. You can count non-existant slaves as 3/5 of a person all night, if it helps you get to sleep...

I have not the faintest clue of what you just said.
12.20.2006 11:31pm
C.:
It appears that regardless of this incident that John Streamas was already in trouble. The Daily Evergreen notes that earlier this year, prior to the fence event, the dean of his department recommended his termination. I don't know if this is still pending, but even if he gets fired it seems that there is other grounds for its cause already.

http://www.dailyevergreen.com/story/17123

http://www.dailyevergreen.com/story/17538
12.20.2006 11:34pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
The 14th amendment contains the language you quoted, but slavery itself was ended three years before that, with the 13th amendment. Thus for three years the U.S. had the situation of slavery being illegal, but if they were legal, they'd count as 3/5 of a person.
12.20.2006 11:36pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Ryan, God bless you for trying, but you are out of your element.
12.20.2006 11:39pm
from theguesthouse (mail):
A poster compared this to the Ward Churchill mess. It's a good comparison, because just as Churchill passed himself off as an American Indian while insulting white Americans, "Professor" Streamas is presenting himself as something other than white -- apparently some sort of Asian or Pacific Islander -- although his appearance, observable in the linked video, doesn't suggest it. He's an obvious con man in terms of the "Ethnic Studies" gig, but I wonder if he isn't also a Churchill-style con man claiming a fictitious ethinic identity
12.20.2006 11:40pm
Latinist:
Two things:

First, I can't believe no one has yet pointed out the best part of this whole story: this whole controversy about being called a "white shitbag" is taking place at an institution called WSU. I can't squeeze any actual meaning out of that, but it makes me very happy.

Second, and more seriously: the idea that calling someone a "white shitbag" should be taken as seriously as calling someone a "black shitbag" is just not plausible. If someone from Wisconsin called me a "New Yorker shitbag" (I am a New Yorker), the modifier wouldn't really make the insult any worse. If someone black called me a "white shitbag" (I am white), I'd be rather upset, but I'd get over it. If someone Christian called me a "Jewish shitbag" (I am Jewish), I'd be very, very angry and not a little scared. These things just aren't the same, and it's silly to pretend they are.
12.21.2006 12:41am
ReaderY:
Unlike the situation in criminal law, governments have a right to expect employees to have common sense and need not pay large sums of money to lawyers to put every conceivable possibility into writing simply to maintain generally understood standards of conduct. The Constitution has purposes other than sproviding income to lawyers, and there is no full-employment-for-lawyers-guarantee provision which requires every contingency to be put in writing and vetted beore a public entity can act.
12.21.2006 12:48am
neurodoc:
Mark Field, you write, "...ratification of the Civil War Amendments (13, 14, 15) confirmed that the racist constructions previously given to the Constitution should not be given in the future. Sadly, other racist constructions continued until the dismantling of Jim Crow and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964..." (italics added) Don't you weaken a strong case by speaking of "constructions previously given to the Constitution?" "Construction" might imply that the original, unamended text was not so clear on its face, or when read with knowledge of its historical context, that it would not have allowed a non-racist interpretation and implementation. (So-called "strict constructionists" do look to "context" for guidance and take into account what the Founding Fathers said was their intent, don't they?) I don't think you mean to be understood that way, since it would lend support to Ryan Waxx's categoric denial that the Constitution itself was never tainted in any way by racism ("no racism was written into the constitution").

Ryan Waxx, I understand and share your unwillingness to accept any "effort to permenantly [sic] keep laws that divvy up the american pie according to that color your skin is," but I don't see why "(t)he portrayal of the constitution as racist is vital to any (such) effort." Such efforts should fail notwithstanding any taint of racism in the original, unamended document. I think you undermine the strong case against saddling us with "law that divvy up the american pie according to that color your skin is" in perpetuity by insisting that there is no basis for claiming racism was embedded in the original document.
12.21.2006 1:47am
neurodoc:
Would it be OT of me to ask whether others see "antisemitism" as a form of "racism" or not? I am always a bit perplexed by this question, since I can make arguments for and against regarding "antisemitism" as a particularized form of "racism."

Do we give Hitler a posthumous victory, though a lesser one than he sought, by indirectly accepting that Jews constitute a "race," and hence "antisemitism" can properly be regarded as a form of "racism"? I don't certainly want to give him and the Nazis, whether paleo- or neo-, victories of any sort.

Or by treating "antisemitism" as a form of "racism" are we just acknowledging the fact that the most virulent of antisemites usually speak of Jews as a race, and Jews have often been treated as a race for better or worse, almost always the latter? (With these questions, I am not inviting discussion about the validity of "race" as a concept or construct, just accepting it for the moment according to the way it is most commonly understood.)

Now, to the case of Streamas - would it have been any different had Streamas called the student a "Jew shitbag"? The professor would not dodge the charge of "antisemitism" in the way he has tried with the charge of "racism" (Streamus: I am a person of color, hence I cannot possibly be "racist"), or could he?

Yes, a rose (or stinkweed) by any other name smells just as sweet (or foul). But if we were to substitute religion/ethnicity (Jewish, though could be any religious or ethnic slur) for "racial" appearance (e.g., Caucasion) would it change anything?

[Ironic, isn't it, that a group like ANSWER, which proclaims opposition to "racism" in its name, is such a font of "antisemitism." Or how about that UN conference in Durban that was supposed to rally anti-racist groups, but was such a manifestation of antisemitism that Colin Powell had to stay home, though it had been his intention to attend.]
12.21.2006 2:13am
neurodoc:
Oops, that should, of course, have been "fount," not "font." (Would say something about how desirable it would be if posts to volokh.com could be edited; if they were numbered for easy reference; etc. According to "Important Note to Helpful Readers," though, such functional issues are not to be addressed here.)
12.21.2006 2:17am
neurodoc:
Latinist, neither I, nor any of my family hail from New York; but like you I am "white" (with "olive" tint) and indelibly Jewish. "If someone from Wisconsin called me a 'New Yorker shitbag'," I think I would be nonplussed (though if it seemed to me that "New Yorker" was code for "Jew" I would be riled.) "If someone black called me a "white shitbag," I too would be rather upset and I might feel threatened. ("Racist" of me to project more than just "upset"?). "If someone Christian called me a 'Jewish shitbag'," I wouldn't be more or less upset than I would be if called a "white shitbag" by a blac, and whether I felt at scared a lot, a little, or not at all would depend on the circumstances (e.g., how many like him vs. how many like me). So I too am a "relativist," though not in exactly the same way as you are. (I am sympathetic to the oppression experienced by people of color, but I don't give dispensation for "racism" to any group.)

Years ago (many) when I was young, I was driving when a car pulled alongside mine and the driver was shaking his fist and yelling something at me. I didn't know what it could be about, had I unwittingly cut him off. Then I heard him called a "g-ddamned guinea." I was truly nonplussed then, since it was a wholly wrong ethnic characterization, and hence an inapt slur (as would have been "wop," "dago," "spic," etc.) This was Boston (actually Cambridge), with an not insubstantial Italian population, and I do have that Levantine (olive skin tint) look, so his mistake was understandable. If he had correctly pegged me as a Jew and gone with a more accurately targeted slur (e.g., "kike," "Yid," "sheeny," etc.), I would no doubt have been furious. But he had been well wide of the mark and I could only laugh about "guinea." And my mini-epiphany was that I could let this idiot's slur roll off my back like water off a duck's if I so chose, and what did it really matter if it had been on the mark or wide of it. (Sure, it is different when not so glancing and inconsequential, but the insight was a useful one for me.)

[If someone from Wisconsin should call you a "New Yorker shitbag," I suggest you smile and say, "Thank you, cheesehead." That will confound them because they will be left to wonder if it is an insult or flattery to be labeled a "cheesehead." And you will have the satisfaction of a clever retort to a stupid and ugly verbal attack.]
12.21.2006 2:55am
Angus:

Up to one-half of all the arrivals in the American colonies were Whites slaves and they were America's first slaves. These Whites were slaves for life, long before Blacks ever were. This slavery was even hereditary. White children born to White slaves were enslaved too.

Michael A. Hoffman II "They Were White and They Were Slaves"


First, let me say "Yuck." I Googled this book and found a ton of promotion of it on white supremacy sites.

Second, the entire case for these supposed white slaves appears to rest on indentured servitude (which was NOT slavery), or on the existence of slaves whose skin was very light due to interracial sex over several generations. The light skinned slaves might have passed for white based on physical appearance, but in America they legally were defined as black under the "one-drop" rule.
12.21.2006 7:05am
A.W. of Freespeech.com (mail):
I have heard this definition of racism before, and I consider it to be one of those cases where a modern African American is essentially pretending that nothing has changed in the 140+ years since the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Black people, in modern America, are not literally powerless, now matter how much a bunch of whiney academics on the states' payroll might claim. They're like the relative in one of Jerry Seinfeld's routine who goes around calling everyone hitler, however inappropriately.

A more useful description of racism is defined to me as the opposite of Martin Luther King's dream: to judge a person not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin.

Greivance monger like this idiot professor, of course, want nothing to do with such a simple and obvious definition of racism--because it exposes their own racism.
12.21.2006 8:11am
Bamaburgess:
Hmmm....interesting. But am I the only one that's NOT surprised at this? I've almost gotten numb to all of this, and that's sad. And it's not even "that" bad here in Alabama yet. Our fellow citizens along the border are REALLY taking a kick to the head. Be sure to watch Tom Brokaw's show on 12/26 for even more hypocrisy on the issue as well.
12.21.2006 10:07am
SeaLawyer:

Wait? This is a *white* professor????

I mean, I'm not sure of his race, because people who look white could still be a fair-skinned hispanic or other, but if so, then I think Eugene Volokh probably owes him quite a bit of an apology.


Just to clarify the professor is Japanese.
12.21.2006 10:08am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Wrong.


I think you undermine the strong case against saddling us with "law that divvy up the american pie according to that color your skin is" in perpetuity by insisting that there is no basis for claiming racism was embedded in the original document.


Implying that any attempt to correct the record is itself proof of current racism is a vicious, circular argument that protects itself through intimidation of its critics.

If you don't think this retort fair, then explain how else I would be 'undermining' the entire idea of reverse-racism removal simply by questioning one of reverse-racism's justifications.
12.21.2006 10:16am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I believe the issue about power or its lack and racism comes from the actual definition of racism.

Racism is behavior based on racialism, the idea that some races are superior and others are inferior.

You don't need power to be a racialist. You need power to act. However, as one poster commented, half a dozen thugs have a good deal of power when facing an unarmed woman.

So blacks can certainly be racialists, power or its lack being irrelevant. They can be racists if a given circumstance allows them to act on racialist ideas.

Colin Powell, as a platoon leader, had more power than most white men will ever have and he had the entire DOD and the federal government backing him up.

Profs like this moron Streamas have so little power that, whatever they think, they're marshmallows in action. I imagine that bothers them. Great.
12.21.2006 10:19am
neurodoc:
Ryan Waxx: "If you don't think this retort fair, then explain how else I would be 'undermining' the entire idea of reverse-racism removal simply by questioning one of reverse-racism's justifications."

You clearly believe that the Constitution is without any taint of racism. Indeed, you seem to believe that it is self-evidently so, and anyone who would say otherwise must be a fool or a knave. There are many, perhaps the vast majority who believe otherwise for reasons like the ones given above, and we are not all fools or knaves.

You insisting first that you must be right, then say, "The portrayal of the constitution as racist is vital to any effort to permenantly keep laws that divvy up the american pie according to that color your skin is." (italics added) Though I doubt you intend it, people may think that the legitimacy of efforts to keep those laws in perpetuity turns on whether or not the Constitution was tainted, whereas it is easy to believe, as I do, both that it was tainted and that those efforts are wrong-headed. So my point is about persuasion, that you weaken your case by making it appear a package deal, that one must agree with you about the Constitution pre-amendments or disagree about the the wrong-headedness of permanently accepting differential treatment according to race.

Think of a magician doing sleight-of-hand coin tricks. Much rests on his/her ability to misdirect the audience's attention to accomplish the illusion. You are in effect misdirecting attention to your own disadvantage, thereby undermining your case. (No, I don't mean this is all about sophistry, making a flawed case appear to the unwary to be a compelling one. I am talking about persuasion.)

I didn't repeat the arguments made by others above to support the conclusion that there was that taint. I didn't and don't rely on "circular logic" for any of this.
12.21.2006 11:02am
LAS (mail):
dpt:
So, a University President (a person of power) who happends to be African-American, who rejects hiring a person, soley on the basis of the person's race, is not a racist?

IANAL, but I would advise that president not to make such a stupid decision or at best, not let race/color be the articulated reason the person is rejected. (If I were a lawyer: Ethics issue here, in the face of representing the client with zeal)

Philosophically you might be correct about an African-American can't be a racist, but in reality, the law says no person can be rejected on the basis of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin, etc, etc.
12.21.2006 11:14am
neurodoc:
Ryan Waxx, you might go with something like this:

Some argue that the original, unamended Constitution
was tainted by racism, and therefore it is necessary
for us to have laws today which treat people
differently according to the color of their skin. I
do not agree that embedded within the Constitution
there is racism. But even if it were the case, it
does not follow that we must or should have laws of
that sort now and in the future. Indeed, to continue
with such laws is to affirm racism as legitimate,
albeit racism of a different "polarity."

That would work, won't it, or do you believe that everything turns on whether there was any racist taint in the original, unamended document? I don't think you do, but please correct me if I am wrong about that.
12.21.2006 11:35am
lucia (mail) (www):

Richard said> "Profs like this moron Streamas have so little power that, whatever they think, they're marshmallows in action."


If the university censures him, I'll believe he has little power. If he continues to get poor teaching appraisals, to call students "shitbags" and gains tenure despite both, I'll believe he has a lot of power.
12.21.2006 11:48am
Mark Field (mail):

Don't you weaken a strong case by speaking of "constructions previously given to the Constitution?" "Construction" might imply that the original, unamended text was not so clear on its face, or when read with knowledge of its historical context, that it would not have allowed a non-racist interpretation and implementation. (So-called "strict constructionists" do look to "context" for guidance and take into account what the Founding Fathers said was their intent, don't they?) I don't think you mean to be understood that way, since it would lend support to Ryan Waxx's categoric denial that the Constitution itself was never tainted in any way by racism ("no racism was written into the constitution").


I actually agree that the original constitution was facially neutral. I said exactly that in my very first sentence in this thread.

The key, of course, is that "facially neutral" is not at all the same thing as "neutrally applied". The Constitution prior to 1860 (and even long afterward) was not construed or applied in a race-neutral manner, but quite the opposite. That racist construction was universally understood, acknowledged, and intended from the beginning, hence my reference above to the deals made in the Convention. The historical record between 1789 and 1860 is also replete with speeches and writings to that effect.*

Bottom line: the Constitution was facially neutral but intended to be applied, and was applied, in a racist way until within my lifetime.

*Before 1860, a very few Northerners had begun to argue that the powers of the federal government could be used to attack slavery within the states. I think my categorical statement is fair despite these few exceptions.
12.21.2006 11:55am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Wait? This is a *white* professor????

I mean, I'm not sure of his race, because people who look white could still be a fair-skinned hispanic or other, but if so, then I think Eugene Volokh probably owes him quite a bit of an apology.


As others have pointed out the professor is Japanese and refers to himself as a “person of color” as in “a person of color cannot be racist.” Even if he wasn’t it wouldn’t make his comments any less racist.

I’m sure Professor Volok will graciously accept your apology for being your usually obnoxious self in the hopes of playing “gotcha” but watching you make an ass of yourself (as usual) in the process is probably apology enough.
12.21.2006 12:20pm
Al (mail):
>>I'm not sure of his race, because people who look white could still be a fair-skinned hispanic

Aren't "fair-skinned" Hispanics white?
12.21.2006 12:28pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Since Streamas's race has become a subject of inquiry here (likely because he himself alluded to it), here's what appears to be a photo of him.



He has said that he was born in Japan, so from the photo and this item one can infer that he's Japanese, but of course it's very hard to know for sure.
12.21.2006 12:29pm
Barry Sanders 20:
Neurodoc:

You said: "If someone from Wisconsin should call you a "New Yorker shitbag," I suggest you smile and say, "Thank you, cheesehead." That will confound them because they will be left to wonder if it is an insult or flattery to be labeled a "cheesehead."

It's a compliment. Watch the Packers/Vikings game tonight from Lambeau Field and you will see cheeseheads out in force, proud, large, and most likely drunk.
12.21.2006 12:29pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

He has said that he was born in Japan, so from the photo and this item one can infer that he's Japanese,


And Japanese-Americans, who I understand are better educated and more affluent than the average Americans, really *fit* the model of the disadvantaged "person of color."
12.21.2006 12:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
You might ask Koreans if the Japanese have the capacity for racism. Or the Chinese. Or the Filipinos. Or any of their POWs. Or anybody who fought them. Spent some time last night talking with an elderly neighbor who fought in the Phillipines. Still tormented over what the Japanese did to civilians and Americans they'd captured.
12.21.2006 12:43pm
Al (mail):
Richard,

According to the WSU website, Streamas' research interests include "the racializing of wartime cultures." Something tells me he is not referring to any of the issues that you raise.
12.21.2006 12:52pm
Loki on the run (mail):
BGates asks Justin


Justin, could you explain in more detail how to take 'the history of the world' into account in deciding what is racism and what isn't? For instance, if a black person insults a Korean in racial terms, or vice versa, are either of those racism? Does it depend on whether the incident takes place in a majority black or Korean country, or neighborhood, or room?


Yeah. This demonstrates how so many Americans have the heads up their asses WRT racism. Go look at the wider world, where in Malaysia and Indonesia Chinese people (who are a definite minority) are villified and even slaughtered because some of them are market dominant minorities.

So, is it racism when a member of the dominant group (Malays) makes a racially charged remark against a Chinese person, who might or might not be a member of the financial elite in that country?

Is it racism when a malay calls a Chinese person a Ching Chong china-man (or an appropriate malay epithet)?

Some people need to pull their heads out of their asses.
12.21.2006 12:55pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
In the interests of continuing an argument when I'm snowed in and bored, would anyone like to speculate on what would have happened to the student if he'd have called the professor a "Jap shitbag"?
12.21.2006 1:00pm
Toby:
However amusing it is the use the principles of Jacques Derrida to find racism in the US Constitution, learning a little history should help.

Lemma: It is well known that the states of the deep south were the cruelest, and most abusive slavery states. Indeed, being sold to the deep south was one of the worst threats that could be made in one fo the more northern states.

Question: Research the 10 largest slave-owners in Antebellum Louisiana. Discover the "race" of each.

Creative writing assignment: Come up with some facrical explanation why the answer to your question really *does* fit in with the theories you promulgated.
12.21.2006 1:09pm
Guest2 (mail):

He has said that he was born in Japan, so from the photo and this item one can infer that he's Japanese, but of course it's very hard to know for sure.


So you mean this guy is smarter than the rest of us AND gets to play the victim card? That really takes some crust!
12.21.2006 1:10pm
jncc (mail):

Quote the lines we need to cut, or let an ashamed silence be your answer.

Nomination for somebody who obviously really needs to get layed.
12.21.2006 1:10pm
jncc (mail):
or laid, or leied.
12.21.2006 1:16pm
AndyInIllinois (mail):
This reply is for Angus:

"First, let me say "Yuck." I Googled this book and found a ton of promotion of it on white supremacy sites."

Your statement above is called "poisoning the wells" and is a logical fallacy. If you want to argue the book is wrong or that indentured for life is not slavery go right ahead just stick to the facts.
12.21.2006 1:44pm
Darkmage (mail):
If someone black called me a "white shitbag" (I am white), I'd be rather upset, but I'd get over it. If someone Christian called me a "Jewish shitbag" (I am Jewish), I'd be very, very angry and not a little scared.

Heh.

Patsy: "Actually sir, I'm Jewish."
King Arthur: "You are? Patsy, why didn't you tell me?"
Patsy: "Well, it's not the sort of thing you say to a heavily armed Christian."
12.21.2006 1:49pm
whit:
generally speaking, i think it would be inappropriate for a professor to call a student a "shitbag" publically.

the fact is that when people preface an insult with a person's race, it is seen as racist "white shitbag", "black shitbag", even though one could get silly and just say it was a descriptor.

the fact that you are including the person's race WHEN insulting them naturally creates at least the appearance of racial animus.

regardless, even if the professor had just called the guy a 'shitbag' i would think that inappropriate for a college professor to demean a student in public like that

john houseman could demean somebody without using race or profanity.
12.21.2006 3:11pm
CWuestefeld (mail) (www):
Streamas's position that a "person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking" has been rightfully attacked on the grounds that it's not making an argument, but merely shuffling definitions. It was also shown that the power differential is fictional on a micro level, since he is a professor. However, there has been no questioning of it on the grounds that the power differential is fictional on a macro level.

I argue that in contemporary American culture, blacks hold considerable power. The hip-hop culture has a virtual stranglehold on the music industry and (it seems to me) the child-to-young-adult demographic. Additionally, their domination of the most popular professional sports makes them icons through other significant swathes of the population.

Similarly, Prof. Streamas is Japanese, which is racially Han, I believe, encompassing Japan and the majority of China. It wasn't very long ago that American businesses lived in terror of the Japanese (remember Deming and 6-sigma?), and today we feel that our economy is threatened by the power of China.

And the power of political correctness has a grip on all of America -- or why else would this be a news item at all?

Indeed, the logic of his claim is self-contradictory. If a minority member's behavior must be excused because of his race, then that person exercising it gains power, thus invalidating the argument it rests on.

So it's absurd to claim that Streamas's behavior is excused because his race, or really any minority's, is weaker.

Earlier in the thread, several posters asserted that this situation -- a minority to a White is not as evil as a White to another minority. This seems to be founded on the history of racial relations in America. But this tends to ignore the actual experience of the individuals involved, equating them with the experience of their ancestors (or even just ancestors of like race, for newcomers). Judging people based on their race rather than individually is the heart of our problem, isn't it? Even to the extent that they may begin at a disadvantage due to history, the argument discounts the sacrifices my ancestors (who were white) made to secure the freedom (they fought with the North in the Civil War) and equality of the Blacks.

In a practical sense, the only way I can see to get beyond racism is to entirely stop acknowledging the existence of race. As long a Prof. Streamas hides behind "my race makes it OK for me to do this", he shouldn't be surprised that white people do the same thing. And this goes to affirmative action and the puppy-dog analogy above: not only does it reinforce the habit of looking at a person's race, but it breeds animosity when you're skipped over for a job or a university spot because you're white (or even if you suspect this is true because it's the policy).
12.21.2006 3:54pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Can someone tell us what is wrong with being a racist? I'd say one is perfectly free to think whatever he chooses about anyone for any reason he chooses. Anyone think another person's thoughts are their business?

Anyone think one is not free to peacefully express those thoughts through words and symbols? Anyone object to someone's free expression of his own thoughts?

Anyone think a person's expression should be limited by the feelings of others about the thoughts expressed?

It seems both student and professor can't abide the expression of thoughts with which they disagree. I have to wonder if either has ever been out of the academic industry.

Note I have limited my questions to thought and peaceful expression of that thought.
12.21.2006 4:10pm
Guest2 (mail):
Elliot123 -- When you say "what is wrong with being a racist," I assume you mean what is there about being a racist that should make it illegal or per se actionable. In that sense, no, as a general matter there's nothing "wrong" with holding racist beliefs or expressing those beliefs, even if the expression is offensive (i.e., "white shitbag").

The Streamas-Ryder situation is complicated, however, by the fact that the two men had a contractual relationship under which Ryder was paying WSU, Streamas's employer, for services to be provided by WSU personnel, including Streamas, and that the incident (if I understand correctly) took place on WSU premises. Thus, it's not as if Ryder were standing on the sidewalk somewhere holding up an anti-immigration placard, and Streamas happened to pass by and shout "White shitbag!" at him. The terms of the arrangement that Ryder, WSU, and Streamas have agreed to probably provide for certain procedures and remedies when a prof does something like this and the student lodges a complaint about it.
12.21.2006 5:04pm
Porkchop (mail):
Elliot 123 wrote:


Can someone tell us what is wrong with being a racist? I'd say one is perfectly free to think whatever he chooses about anyone for any reason he chooses. Anyone think another person's thoughts are their business?

Anyone think one is not free to peacefully express those thoughts through words and symbols? Anyone object to someone's free expression of his own thoughts?

Anyone think a person's expression should be limited by the feelings of others about the thoughts expressed?

It seems both student and professor can't abide the expression of thoughts with which they disagree. I have to wonder if either has ever been out of the academic industry.

Note I have limited my questions to thought and peaceful expression of that thought.


I think that you have raised the fundamental questions surrounding so-called "hate speech" and the efforts of some to suppress it by legal means. My position is that everyone has the legal right to be an a-hole, and everyone else has the right to criticize or shun him or her for being one.

Is it wrong to be a racist? Morally, yes; legally, no, at least as long as it is merely thought or speech, as opposed to action. I'm all in favor of racists doing all the ranting they want to -- that way I know who they are and I can act accordingly. Suppressing speech won't make the thoughts disappear.

The problem, as I see it, is that some want to add legal consequences to existing social consequences. One can support or criticize hostile environment claims in the context of employment, but exporting similar standards to general social or political discourse is very troubling to me. That, I think is where Streamas wants to go when he whines about the terrible hurt felt "by hundreds" at the sight of the symbolic fence. He wants hurt feelings to be a legally cognizable injury that would allow him to ban the source of the hurt.
12.21.2006 5:11pm
Justin (mail):
Having read that from a previous poster and from a previous link to someone who appeared white, I apologize for the inference and lending of support that my question did, but I also advise people to reread my post and notice that I was not sure at the time of Professor Stremas's race, and specifically couched my post using not only a question mark, and also the words "if" to describe the proposition.
12.21.2006 6:06pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Eliot asks what is wrong with being a racist. Let me paint you a picture.
12.21.2006 11:12pm
Knemon (mail):
This is (part of) what triggered the original "Sister Souljah moment," right?

As I recall, she said two things that Clinton then objected to (paraphrased, possibly not at the same event):

1) Since white people kill black people all the time, what's wrong with having a week when black people kill white people?

2) No white person can call a black person a racist, ever.
12.23.2006 12:28am
Knemon (mail):
"and the 3/5 Clause was one way of helping to provide for a future "leg up" for the South in any national debates over slavery in future. "

The 3/5 rule was a compromise - full representation would have strengthened the South even more.
12.23.2006 12:32am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Knemon. It's hard to believe that the 3/5 compromise is actually misunderstood by those who claim it is meant to disadvantage blacks.
IMO, they know, but hope somebody, anybody, out there can be fooled.
12.24.2006 8:18pm