Whether it was a joke in good taste or not is a matter of personal opinion. It’s not a joke I would have made, but then I find a great many things that law students today believe to be funny to be insipid. They are not a particularly witty group. But then, so what? If it had been racist or sexist, that would be one thing since even the most conservative students these days take for granted that most progressives taboos are forbidden. But trap house?
Administrators at Yale Law School spent weeks pressuring a student to apologize for a “triggering” email in which he referred to his apartment as a “trap house,” a slang term for a place where people buy drugs. Part of what made the email “triggering,” the administrators told the student, was his membership in a conservative organization.
The second-year law student, a member of both the Native American Law Students Association and the conservative Federalist Society, had invited classmates to an event cohosted by the two groups. “We will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House … by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc,” he wrote in a Sept. 15 email to the Native American listserv. In keeping with the theme, he said, the mixer would serve “American-themed snacks” like “Popeye’s chicken” and “apple pie.”
Did this cross a line?
Within minutes, the lighthearted invite had been screenshotted and shared to an online forum for all second-year law students, several of whom alleged that the term “trap house” indicated a blackface party.
“I guess celebrating whiteness wasn’t enough,” the president of the Black Law Students Association wrote in the forum. “Y’all had to upgrade to cosplay/black face.” She also objected to the mixer’s affiliation with the Federalist Society, which she said “has historically supported anti-Black rhetoric.”
For the uninitiated, who can stare at these words with a confused look on your faces, the diversity officer at Yale Law School explains what is obvious to the woke.
At a Sept. 16 meeting, which the student recorded and shared with the Washington Free Beacon, associate dean Ellen Cosgrove and diversity director Yaseen Eldik told the student that the word “trap” connotes crack use, hip hop, and blackface. Those “triggering associations,” Eldik said, were “compounded by the fried chicken reference,” which “is often used to undermine arguments that structural and systemic racism has contributed to racial health disparities in the U.S.”
And then there was the inclusion of the dreaded white supremacist terrorist organization, the Federalist Society.
“The email’s association with FedSoc was very triggering for students who already feel like FedSoc belongs to political affiliations that are oppressive to certain communities,” Eldik said. “That of course obviously includes the LGBTQIA community and black communities and immigrant communities.”
These dots, clearly connected to diversity director Eldik, might escape notice to the eye of the oppressor, but were immediately and invariably connected in the feelings of the oppressed. Or as Eldik explains, “of course obviously” as if only a blithering idiot wouldn’t realize how that put every marginalized student in fear of their lives at Yale Law School.
But the good news, YLS explained after being challenged, is the demand that the student issue an apology, gracefully prepared on his behalf, upon threat of his never being admitted to the bar, that this wasn’t an investigation, but a learning experience.
Whether it’s immoral is a question best left to the priests and philosophers. Whether “full stop” makes a point more valid than, “actually” or “period” is a question best answered by others as well. But the fact that a law school used its official clout to try to pound a student into submission, with or without an investigation, is par for the course at Yale.
As David Lat noted, even though this shouldn’t need saying but most assuredly does, “when law students disagree or get offended by other students, they should work it out amongst themselves, without the administration (absent extreme circumstances, e.g., harassment or threats).” One would hope that by the time a young person has matriculated at the very prestigious Yale Law School, it wouldn’t be necessary to run to daddy to cry about your hurt feelings. But then, hope springs eternal.