Recently, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported that a ninth-grade teacher in the Iowa City school district was teaching her students about the enormous challenges faced by freed slaves in 1865. She assigned her students to put themselves in the place of a freed slave and write four sentences about difficulties they would have faced, given that they were illiterate and had only known slavery. A student of color in the online class was “uncomfortable” with the assignment and her mother didn’t want to let, “one soul make you uncomfortable for who you are.”. The district put the teacher on administrative leave because of her actions. The mother is demanding that the teacher apologize. A spokesperson said the district “does not support and will not tolerate this type of instruction.” The teacher’s intentions were good – and that matters! The student, parent, and school district could have taken the opposite position: That going through an uncomfortable situation can make us mentally stronger and more resilient. Which approach has the better result?
I agree with William Cotton’s essay in The Des Moines Register that we must make changes to eliminate systemic racism. (See link below to his essay in the Register.) Here are two specific actions we should take: 1. Eliminate stops by police of vehicles with equipment violations such as broken lights. If appropriate, tickets can be issued by mail against the owner of the vehicle based on videos or photos. This will help eliminate pre-textual stops. 2. Repeal or stop enforcement of laws against the possession of marijuana. It has been clearly established that marijuana possession laws are enforced unequally between black and white people. We have made great progress over time in reducing government-supported racism in our country, but we must continue to eliminate it everywhere we find it.
I just started listening to the audio podcast of the Soho Forum debate: “There is overwhelming evidence that our criminal justice system is racist.” The debaters are Radley Balko (for), and Rafael Mangual (against).
The opening statement by Radley Balko is full of evidence of systemic racism in the administration of our criminal justice system. If you want specifics, the video and audio links are below.
It is a sad commentary on how far we’ve gone with political correctness that a person with good intentions cannot make a mistake without losing his job. Professor Jon Bolen of Simpson College appears to have had only the best of intentions. He spoke the unspeakable N-word when giving an example of how the word the R-word, redskin, can be hurtful to indigenous people, especially when used as part of the name of a professional football team in Washington. He made a sincere apology and agreed that he should have simply used the term “N-word” instead of the actual word that it stands for. He should simply be forgiven. But this is what happens when a zero-tolerance policy or attitude is adopted. We are not teaching our children well. Humans make mistakes. Intentions do make a difference. I hope that there is a groundswell of support for professor John Bolen.
The Des Moines Register recently published a nice essay by a gay couple who got married in Iowa without any discrimination issues to deal with. (See link to Register essay below.) It is fair and reasonable for government to prohibit discrimination against gay couples and others in the selling of standard goods and services that are offered to the public, like most products retail stores, rooms at hotels and motels, and meals at restaurants. But when the product or services needs to be customized or personalized by the seller, then discrimination by the seller should be allowed, and the buyer should not be able to enlist the force of government to require the seller to provide the product or service. So, for example, cake bakers should required to sell what is what is on their shelves and available for sale without discrimination, but they should not be required to create custom cakes against their will. At the same time buyers are free to choose other sellers and to organize peaceful protests and boycotts against such discriminating sellers. This way, everyone’s liberty is preserved, and no force needs to be used, by government or anyone else.
As readers of this blog may know, I am and atheist libertarian and support gay marriage.
I was glad to read that the Boy Scouts are expanding their good work to include transgender boys. (See Des Moines Register link below.) Private club-type of organizations, like the Boy Scouts, do have and should have the right to decide who may or who may not be members. The fundamental and peaceful right to Freedom of Association should be respected by law. Any group of people should be able to voluntarily form a club or other organization. whether boy or girl, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, etc. I’m sure this was a difficult decision for some in the organization. Many people simply do not know how to react to people who are transgendered. Everything I’ve known about the Boy Scouts leads me to believe that it is an honorable organization that teaches both practical skills and good moral values and behaviors to boys. This was the right thing for them to do.
I respectfully disagree with Kevin Pokorny’s letter to the editor in the Register yesterday. (See link below.) The State of Iowa does need to amend its civil rights laws to allow buyers and sellers of products and services to peacefully follow their conscience when they have reasonable disagreements.
To the extent that a product or service is personalized or customized, it does infringe on the rights of a seller to force him or her to provide the product or service in such a way that goes against the seller’s sincerely held religious beliefs. If the products or services are readily available from a multitude of sellers, and a buyer can reasonably find what he or she wants from another seller, then it is not unreasonable to allow some sellers to follow their conscience.
In Iowa and other states, florists, photographers, bakers, and wedding venue operators have been forced to provide customized products and/or services for gay couples’ weddings. Governments should never discriminate against gay marriage, and I personally have and do support giving gay marriage the same government rights and privileges as any other marriage. But, private individuals, and the businesses they operate, should not be forced to provide customized or personalized services or products against their will.
FYI – I am a libertarian-minded atheist, and believe it is better to have peaceful voluntary solutions whenever possible, rather than to use the force of government to decide who will be winners and who will be losers.
The U.S. has made many great advances in the fight against racism since the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago. One area where we have failed miserably is the drug wars. Blacks have been arrested, convicted and incarcerated for non-violent drug related offenses in numbers way out of proportion to their drug use when compared to whites. To add insult to injury, once a person has been convicted of a drug offense, they are prohibited by law from getting certain federal benefits including military and other federal employment, federally subsidized student loans and grants, food stamps, federal housing assistance and more. Finally, and even more devastating, most employers legally discriminate against anyone who has had a drug conviction. So, the negative impact on blacks’ ability to get work is again way out of proportion when compared to whites who use drugs. There is no way that the immoral drug wars would have been allowed to continue this long if the tables had been turned and whites were treated so unfairly. If you think that you are not racist, then you must support ending the drug wars – unless, of course, you want to wreck the lives of many many more white people by treating them the same as black people.