Thursday, March 06, 2008

Beware What You Read

Holy cow, this is frightening. Via Concurring Opinions, the story of a university student-cum-janitor who was charged by the school with "racial harassment." His crime? He read a book that dealt with racial issues during his off-time at his janitorial job. Was it Mein Kampf? The Clansman? Nope - Notre Dame v. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan, by Todd Tucker. From the Borders blurb:

In 1924, students of the University of Notre Dame and members of the Ku Klux Klan faced off in a violent confrontation in South Bend, Indiana. This shocking and true hidden chapter in Catholic and American history is recounted in Notre Dame vs. The Klan, the story of two uniquely American institutions that rose to power amidst rampant anti-Catholicism and collided during a riotous weekend. In defeating the Klan, Notre Dame helped Catholics overcome widespread prejudice and take place as accepted members of mainstream America. Told from the perspectives of the then-president of Notre Dame, the former Grand Dragon of the KKK, and a Notre Dame student who participated in the riot, the book details the rise of Notre Dame- from its humble roots in a small village in France to its reputations as an academic leader and football power-and the parallel trajectory of the KKK in Indiana.
Sounds like a stirring story of people standing up to bigotry. Hardly the stuff of "racial harassment."

Part of the problem appears to be that nobody - the allegedly offended coworkers nor the university's investigator - would listen to the guy explain what the book was about. I can see where a book with "Klan" in the title might raise some eyebrows, but a friendly conversation should have dispelled any animus.

The university later rescinded its disciplinary decision, but without conceding how silly it was in the first place or clarifying that reading a book at work wasn't some kind of offense. Regardless, this is the kind of thing that people opposed to civil rights laws and litigation use to show how such things go too far. The university should loudly own up to its error.

More on this issue over at The Volokh Conspiracy.

1 comment:

RedZeppelin said...

Why do terrorists hate us again? Oh, right! Because of our freedoms.