Yes "Hate Crime" Is Unacceptable
Some weeks ago I suggested that "hate speech" and "hate
crime" as legal categories usher in the concept of political
crime-as un-American a proposition as there can be. Here follows
"A Tale of Two Mr. Washingtons" to illustrate why hate
ought not to be treated as a crime.
The first Mr. Washington, (George of cherry-tree fame) has had
his name removed from an elementary school in New Orleans. That,
as we shall see, could be characterized as a "hate crime"
committed against past, present and future students of that school.
The second Mr. Washington (Linn Jr.) wrote a column, distributed
on November 19th by Knight/Ridder Tribune Services. He recounts
how, "during [his] freshman year at a mid-western university,
an anthropology professor in her first lecture declared that black
people have the remnants of monkey-like tails."
"The professor," Linn Washington Jr. writes, "matter-of-factly
told the class that she would have ordered me to drop my pants to
display my anthropoid anatomy, but she felt such a 'show-and-tail'
might make some of the white-female students uncomfortable."
And later: "I earned the top scores on both the midterm and
the final, but the professor failed me in the course."
"The head of the anthropology department, a Kenyan,"
declined to act on young Linn's appeal to have the failing grade
reversed, so as to avoid the appearance of "siding with me
because we both were black."
Linn Washington Jr. teaches journalism at Temple University. I
wrote to him asking for the names of the university, the offending
professor, the Kenyan department head, and the title of the course.
After nearly three weeks a response arrived, but not before two
follow-up e-mail messages, as well as requests for help made to
the current head of his department, the managing editor of Knight-Ridder/Tribune,
and The Progressive Media Project in Madison, Wisconsin, where the
Professor Washington did not provide any details. He wrote that
the offending professor would be very old, the Kenyan department
head's name he did not remember, and both the "Midwestern University"
and his grade were "moot."
How moot are these points if they lay the foundation for statements
intended very much for the present? "I got an F because a professor
couldn't hide her racism," concludes Professor Washington.
"Many of today's affirmative-action opponents cloak their racism
behind the rhetoric of blacks being unable to compete academically.
Now they are giving us F's even before we enroll."
(Opponents of affirmative action actually advocate that black students
can and should compete.)
In any event, questions arise. Was a professor likely to teach
outright anatomical nonsense? Can anyone receive an "F"
after not one but two test scores of "100 percent"? And
how did a head of department from Kenya work with a faculty member
who showed a pathological aversion toward blacks?
According to current legislative initiatives, Professor Washington
could soon find himself accused of hate speech directed at white
Americans. Along with him, prosecutors would have to examine the
complicity of "The Progressive Media Project" and of Knight-Ridder/Tribune
in publishing hate-based information. They might have to question
the trustees of Temple University who countenance hate-based instruction
taking place under their roof.
Do we really want to see this wondrous land transformed into one
in which prosecutors could do all of that?
America's best died on the battlefield for Linn Washington Jr.'s
right to write. America's best died on the battlefield for our right
to ask questions. They died to keep such discussions free from interference
by the courts. They died to keep America free from the disease of
Slowly but surely, the court of public opinion will render a verdict.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune will no doubt apply additional caution. The
students at Temple will be exposed to different views-so long as
such views are not stifled by those who seek control of our vocabulary.
And what of the school board of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, which
removed the name of "that great Virginia slaveholder, George
Washington," to quote the wording of columnist Clarence Page?
The tomatoes they hurled flew in the wrong direction. Greatness
of the George Washington variety is not susceptible to passing fads.
They branded innocent children henceforth to be known as the ones
whose alma mater had declared the first president of our nation
And, since the school board's action was prompted by hate, it,
too, would have to face prosecution under the law now proposed by
President Clinton and two members of the United States Senate.
In contemplating the future of the school, now renamed for Charles
Drew, Clarence Page speculates: "Someday, who knows? The Charles
Drew school could become the Benito Juarez School or the Roberto
Clemente School or something else that honors the ancestry of whatever
ethnic group happens to be gaining."
The practice of constantly renaming places and institutions was
a creation of the Soviet Union and the Third Reich. Unlike Mr. Page's
notion that it results from changing the interpretation of history,
it reflects the constant changes applied to the facts of history.
That practice, too, was a creation of the Soviet Union and the Third
Both of them depended for survival on the persecution of political
crime. America's survival depends on the unequivocal rejection of