Friday, May 09, 2008

Racial Harrassment--That's New

The New York Post as the story of Keith John Sampson, a janitor at Indiana University-Perdue University Indianapolis, who was found to have committed "Racial Harrassment" by reading Todd Tucker's "Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Klan" on his breaks from his job. The book, a history of a notable anti-Klan clash between students of Notre Dame and the KKK, is decidedly anti-Klan.
But that didn't stop the Affirmative Action Office of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis from branding me as a detestable Klansman.

They didn't want to hear the truth. The office ruled that my "repeatedly reading the book . . . constitutes racial harassment in that you demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your co-workers."

A friend reacted to the finding with, "That's impossible!" He's right. You can't commit racial harassment by reading an anti-Klan history.
Actually, it is impossible to committ racial harassment if one was reading a history of the KKK in any context. Reading is a passive, solitary activity that offends no one and should not be barred by some "politically correct" or "sensitivity rules." Sampson's choice of reading material (a copy of the book is available in the school's library) is not a harrassing action, it is barely an action at all. The fact is that the school went way too far and paid the price.
But the $106,000-a-year affirmative-action officer who declared me guilty of "racial harassment" never spoke to me or examined the book. My own union - the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - sent an obtuse shop steward to stifle my freedom to read. He told me, "You could be fired," that reading the book was "like bringing pornography to work."

Shame on the affirmative-action people and my union for displaying their ignorance and incompetence. Their pusillanimous actions, in trying to ban Tucker's anti-Klan history book, played into the hands of the hateful KKK.

After months of stonewalling, the university withdrew the charge, thanks to pressure from the press, the American Civil Liberties Union and a group called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.
The fact that the charge was withdrawn is beside the point. The fact that one's reading choices can be considered racial harrassment, a new concept if I have ever heard of one. How can I harrass a race? I can harrass a person, I can verbally assault them, I can defame them, but I can't harrass someone's race or ethinicity.

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