The logic is simple. Actually, simplistic would be a more fitting term to describe an argument advanced by University of Southern California Professor Charles H.F. Davis in “Inside Higher Ed” that punishing protesters contributes to white supremacy.
How, you might ask? Well, since campus protesters of white supremacy “are disproportionately students of color and students representing other marginalized groups,” Davis is quoted as saying by Campus Reform, holding them accountable for their actions validates white supremacy.
And what sorts of protest does Davis find acceptable? Using “disruptive tactics to shut down hate speech as well as … holding signs, protesting outside of speaker venues, and engag[ing] in other forms of resistance” are all okey-doke. Unless of course the protest is by conservatives who claim their right to free speech is being abridged.
A fundamental problem with Davis’s argument is that the assigning of the label white supremacist is purely in the eye of the beholder and can vary widely. For example, Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson recently declared that the White House “is full of white supremacists.” Even if she could prove her claim, throwing out a general statement like that without naming names could do irreparable damage to members of the administration — which is why there are libel laws in our criminal justice system.
But Prof. Davis is well beyond appeals to reason, having further, having further written that colleges should “resist the constant conflation of hate speech and free speech” because hate speech is “violent and invites violence, which should not be allowed on-campus.”
He doesn’t touch on the use of violence as a vehicle of protest, although if the violence is directed at white supremacists it’s probably kosher.
This simplifies the matter of deciding what course of action should be taken against protesters who, say, topple a statue commemorating the Confederate Civil War dead? Recent events have provided an answer to that question. Takiyah Thompson, the woman who mounted a ladder to facilitate the desecration of such a statue in Durham, N.C., may be receiving a scholarship as a reward for her crime.
Maybe all protesters should receive automatic scholarships … as long as they are protesting white supremacy.