Racism’s friends are not always racists bent on spreading lunacy, hate, and violence against specific minorities. Sometimes the spread of racism may be facilitated by those who, in the name of fighting racism, make such outlandish and false accusations that they discredit the fight against racism by crying “Wolf!” too often.
Consider two recent news stories. One is about he settlement of a dispute arising in 2016. The other is about an incident last August.
In 2016 a Black student at Oberlin College in Ohio was caught shoplifting liquor from a store near the campus. When the store owner tried to use his smartphone to photograph the student caught in the act, the student slapped him and ran away. When the store clerk pursued the student, the student and two other Black Oberlin students beat him up. The students subsequently pleaded guilty to assault, and the shoplifter also pleaded guilty to theft. In exchange for their confessions and agreement to pay restitution, the students received no jail time.
Nonetheless, Oberlin students, faculty members, and administrators charged the store’s owners with racism and organized demonstrations and boycotts. Among the instigators and organizers were Oberlin’s Dean and Assistant Dean of Students. In response to Oberlin’s attempt to destroy their business, the store owners sued Oberlin for libel and won an initial judgement of $44 million, since reduced to $36 million. Last week, having exhausted all appeals, Oberlin agreed to pay the judgment.
In the second instance, a Black member of the Duke University women’s volleyball team claimed that during a game against Brigham Young University in Utah she heard racist taunts coming from the crowd in attendance. BYU officials at the game expelled a fan believed to have been one of those allegedly hurling racist slurs at her, and subsequently launched an investigation into the incident.
However, a review of videotapes and audiotapes of the game failed to produce any evidence that anyone had used racist language. Moreover, none of the fifty witnesses questioned—audience members, BYU athletic officials, or Duke athletic officials—could remember hearing a single racist slur word directed at the complaining student or anyone else. The most obvious explanation for the failure to find evidence that the incident happened is that the incident never happened. By the way, BYU apologized to the fan whom it expelled.
Of course, it’s not fair to blame everyone fighting racism for the disgusting, vile, and false accusations made by a few fanatics. Each charge of racism should be judged, accepted, or rejected on its own merits.
Yet fairly or not, each accusation of racism proven false may undermine the credibility of those committed to combatting it. Each false accusation may cause the public to ask, “If this accusation is false, how can we be sure other accusations of racism aren’t false as well?” And the more doubt the public has about racism’s ongoing existence, the less supportive it will be of measures to reduce racism.
Those who charge racism in the absence of genuine racism are as threatening to civilized public discourse as those who charge election fraud in the absence of supporting evidence, or those who say that school shootings are phony events staged by the government to create public opposition to gun owners’ rights and the Second Amendment. Social justice warriors and everyone concerned with our growing inability to rationally discuss public issues without demonizing the opposition should vigorously fight back and condemn those who make false accusations of racism or of anything else.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.