In the recent race hoax at State University of New York at Albany, where three black women started a fight on a bus and accused a dozen white people of attacking them for being black, a professor at the school claimed they were justified because they started a conversation on race.
“My white students have said this has opened up conversations,” said Sami Schalk, an assistant professor in SUNY Albany’s English department. “Things that are inadvertent, small, but that these white students have no experience with, not being a person of color on this campus.”
Certainly, no one could argue that there is something wrong with a conversation on race, right? But is it an excuse for engaging in false accusations?
Oddly, but not unexpectedly, that “conversation” was not about avoiding a rush to judgment when accusations check all the boxes in preferred narratives, but about accusers needing to be believed.
Falsely accusing a person of a crime, especially as the 10-year anniversary of the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax is upon us, is certainly worthy of a conversation. But that’s not the conversation being generated.
The most famous rape hoax of the past decade, the Duke Lacrosse case, involved campus administrators rushing to judgment to condemn the accused team. A “Group of 88” professors and administrators circulated an ad with quotes from students and others about how the accused were racists and how the culture at Duke promoted rape.
For the 10-year anniversary of the hoax, some of the administrators who promulgated the ad claimed they weren’t trying to condemn the students (yeah, right) but were merely trying to start a discussion on campus.
The “starting a discussion” has become a foundational rationalization in response to false allegations of criminal conduct. The perpetrators of the false claims may have committed a crime, may have harmed innocent people through their false accusations, but the “social justice” reaction is that they are morally justified because their crime gives rise to a discussion of a more worthy issue.
The next time a hoax is revealed, watch. Those committed to driving the narrative will claim that even though this particular accusation was false, their narrative still stands and that it should “start a dialogue” regardless. And as I mentioned before, that “dialogue” is never about waiting for facts or evidence before condemning accused people, but about how we should accuse more people because they’re probably guilty.
Putting aside the perverse view of trading off one view of social wrongs for another, there is another aspect of the “starting a conversation” excuse that warrants attention. This concern goes to what that conversation is about, and this video of a debate between Harvard students and students from the University of West Georgia shows “dialogue” at its worst.
The video is flawed, clearly cut and thus leaving out parts that might give rise to discussion that isn’t nearly as absurd as the video would make it appear. That said, there doesn’t appear to be any conceivable explanation for a student arguing that white people should kill themselves.
The obvious retort is that all hell would break loose if a white student suggested that a black student should kill himself, but that’s really not helpful. This is a product of a discussion of white privilege, with absurdly overheated rhetoric. It is not to be taken seriously, and only makes the student who promoted the notion look ridiculously infantile. That happens. A lot.
But what this does raise is the efficacy of the rationalization for false allegations. Falsely alleging the commission of a crime is, in itself, a wrong. Efforts to salvage some small piece of justification for the commission of this crime create the perverse incentive to falsely claim victimhood, as if the status didn’t have enough rewards already. But even this rationalization fails when the “start a conversation” excuse encourages black students to feel empowered to engage in a discussion of why white students should commit suicide.
The depth of these problems has reached a new low. That Harvard students have successfully rid themselves of the law school’s racist Royall shield may be symbolic, but when they are confronted with arguments for the death of white students, they have crossed a line of “conversation” that is intolerable. And this is what their professors use as an excuse for committing a crime in the first place?
At what point will grown-ups on campus take charge? Are there any grown-ups left? Is it not bad enough that students are engaged in the crime of falsely accusing others, with the comfort of pedagogical excuses? Are conversations where one student asserts that others should commit suicide really what you contend justifies the crime of false accusations?
This is out of control. This is intolerable. If the professoriate can’t find the maturity and discretion to use its position to condemn the commission of crimes by students in the name of social justice, then at least grow up enough to deal with students calling for other students to kill themselves.
We don’t need to have this conversation. This conversation should never happen. That it is even conceivably acceptable that this conversation is happening on your campus, happening with your students, is a reflection of your failure as teachers and adults. There is no excuse for any of this, and yet you have allowed children to believe that this is acceptable conduct. This must stop.