Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Bias Fear

This is a disturbing story, if it's true (via Glenn Reynolds). An older part-time student, janitor, and avid reader reads a book in a break room on campus at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis. The book is entitled Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. It's about a historical incident, a street fight in May 1924, involving Notre Dame students and some KKK members. It's received good reviews.

A couple of people in the break room say they don't like the KKK. The reader tells them that the book is about the KKK receiving their come-uppance, but they don't seem interested.

Weeks later, he is informed that because he read this book -- a book that denigrates the Ku Klux Klan -- he has been accused of racial harassment. A few weeks after that, he is informed he has been found guilty of racial harassment and told he cannot read the book around his co-workers.

Fortunately, there's more to the story than this. The avid reader complained about the judgment, and received a follow-up letter to replace the earlier judgment, which ultimately drew no final conclusion. Yet the fact that this went as far as it did still troubles me, unless there are significant details being left out. Indeed, I hope there are significant details being left out, because otherwise, this case is obscene. It would be like someone being found guilty of anti-Semitism for reading a book about the Allies' victory over the Nazis in World War 2. Such a book, after all, would be about Nazis, and people are offended by Nazis. The fact that it's about the Nazis being defeated would be irrelevant, for the same reason that it's irrelevant that the subtitle of the book above is "How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan".

But leave all that aside: folks, he was found guilty of racial harassment by reading a book. Unless he was reading it out loud, I don't see how that could possibly infringe upon others. If you don't want to read the title of the book someone else is reading, don't read it. Look somewhere else, sit somewhere else. I really hope there's more to this story than this.

1 comment:

Alonso said...

just drifting over here from patterico as a result of your post there. even if the book was in support of the kkk, sampson has a right to read the book. as you say if the title is offensive then don't read it.