A racist came to Shabbat dinner and now …

Once the “heir” to the white nationalist movement, Derek Black accepted a Jewish classmate’s invitation to Shabbat dinner, made new friends, listened to their arguments and ultimately abandoned his family’s racist beliefs, reports the Washington Post in a remarkable story.

Black’s father created Stormfront to promote white nationalist ideas online; Derek did the child’s version. His godfather is David Duke.

Derek Black Derek Black, 27, was following in his father’s footsteps as a white nationalist leader until he began to question the movement’s ideology. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Derek Black was following in his father’s footsteps as a white nationalist leader until he made liberal friends who changed his views. Photo: Matt McClain/Washington Post

Now, “Black is now a liberal who supports immigration, doesn’t believe race should divide people, and admires President Obama,” writes Reason’s Robby Soave.

Black’s conversion is “a subtle repudiation of the kind of emotional safe space that liberals want to foist on college campuses,” concludes Soave.

After attending community college, Black enrolled in Florida’s liberal New College to study medieval European  history. Despite doing a weekly white-supremacist radio show, he hid his views on campus. But, eventually he was outed.

Most students ostracized him. Matthew Stevenson, an Orthodox Jew, invited Black to his Friday night Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner.

Matthew always drank from a kiddush cup and said the traditional prayers, but most of his guests were Christian, atheist, black or Hispanic — anyone open-minded enough to listen to a few blessings in Hebrew.

. . . He went back and read some of Derek’s posts on the site from 2007 and 2008: “Jews are NOT white.” “Jews worm their way into power over our society.” “They must go.”

Matthew decided his best chance to affect Derek’s thinking was not to ignore him or confront him, but simply to include him.

Black became a regular at the dinner.

Week by week, conversation by conversation, Derek softened his views. His new friends challenged him—firmly but politely—and systematically convinced him that he was wrong about everything.

Eventually, he publicly repudiated white nationalism and apologized for his past actions. Black is now a graduate student in history.

What not to say in college

Clark University students during the first week of classes in Worcester, Mass. Photo: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times

New college students are learning about “subtle insults” — aka microaggressions — reports Stephanie Saul in the New York Times.

The story starts at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

A freshman tentatively raises her hand and takes the microphone. “I’m really scared to ask this,” she begins. “When I, as a white female, listen to music that uses the N word, and I’m in the car, or, especially when I’m with all white friends, is it O.K. to sing along?”

The answer, from Sheree Marlowe, the new chief diversity officer at Clark University, is an unequivocal “no.”

Marlowe warned students to avoid “comments, snubs or insults . . .  targeted at people based on their membership in a marginalized group,” reports the Times.

Among her other tips: Don’t ask an Asian student you don’t know for help on your math homework or randomly ask a black student if he plays basketball. Both questions make assumptions based on stereotypes.

“You guys” is out too. It could be interpreted as excluding women.

Microaggressions can be silent.

“What’s an environmental microaggression?” Ms. Marlowe asked the auditorium of about 525 new students. She gave an example. “On your first day of class, you enter the chemistry building and all of the pictures on the wall are scientists who are white and male,” she said. “If you’re a female, or you just don’t identify as a white male, that space automatically shows that you’re not represented.”

A nonverbal microaggression could be when a white woman clutches her purse as a black or Latino person approaches.

Another subset of microaggression is known as the microinvalidation, which includes comments suggesting that race plays a minor role in life’s outcomes, like “Everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough.”

I’d call that an opinion.

BTW, a biological male can “self-identify” as female, but a white person can’t self-identify as black, according to Marlowe. Students seemed confused, writes Saul.

Rutgers: Speak when ‘necessary’ and ‘kind’

In at least one Rutgers residence hall, students are being encouraged to use only language that is “helpful” and “necessary” to avoid committing microaggressions, reports Campus Reform.

“Erected as part of the university’s Language Matters campaign, the bulletin board instructs students to ask themselves whether their choice of words is  ‘true,’ ‘helpful,’ ‘inspiring,’ ‘necessary,’ and ‘kind’ before speaking out,” reports Campus Reform.  It also lists offensive terms, such as “retarded” and “illegal aliens.”

The “Language Matters” website tells students there are three types of microaggressions:

A microassault may include “avoiding someone,” for instance, while an example of a microinsult is telling someone they are strong for a girl. A microinvalidation, meanwhile, could involve asking an Asian or Latino person where they are from.

If students are afraid of saying the wrong thing, they’ll avoid speaking to each other, committing even more nano-assault/invalidation/insults. The web site also warns of non-verbal and “environmental” microaggressions, but doesn’t provide examples. So, just keep to yourself, students.

University of Nebraska at Lincoln, my father’s alma mater, declares on its web site: “We believe in the freedom of speech, and encourage the expression of ideas and opinions, and do not tolerate words and actions of hate and disrespect.”

If a student freely expresses hatred of censorship and disrespect for UN’s no-tolerance policy, what then? What about disrespect for Chancellor Ronnie Green, who said that the policy is “non-negotiable” (whatever that means)?

Adulthood 101: Remedial resilience

East Carolina University will offer “adulting” class to help students cope with the transition “from home life to college life and into their adulthood,”

It’s hoped Remedial Adulthood—  the university prefers “resilience education” — will relieve the stress on college counselors, writes Robby Soave for the Daily Beast.

urlAcross the country, more college students are seeking help for anxiety and depression.

Reason columnist Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, blames “helicopter parents and safety-obsessed K-12 administrators” for failing to teach kids to solve their own problems, writes Soave.

“Today’s children grow up with their elders ever present to organize the game, settle the scores and slice the snacks,” as Skenazy puts it.

“Emotionally coddled, easily offended, mentally traumatized students” are skewing the campus climate, writes Soave.

They are the ones calling for what psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes as “vindictive protectiveness,” or institutional policies designed to protect students from psychological harm.

These policies are well-known to readers: trigger warnings that require professors to consider whether they are teaching objectionable material; safe spaces that appear on campus whenever a visiting speaker expresses a controversial idea; speech codes that thwart students’ efforts to exercise their First Amendment rights; and “Bias Response Teams” that investigate members of campus for saying the wrong things, even inadvertently.

At the expense of free expression, these policies promise to protect students from discomfort — and from growing up.

U-Chicago: No ‘safe spaces’ here

Image result for college free speech safe spaces trigger warnings

Don’t expect “safe spaces” or “trigger warnings” at the University of Chicago, wrote Dean of Students John Ellison in a letter to incoming freshmen. Expect some discomfort.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” wrote Ellison. “Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community.”

“Universities cannot be viewed as a sanctuary for comfort but rather as a crucible for confronting ideas and thereby learning to make informed judgments in complex environments,” wrote University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

It’s inspired praise. “It is a sad commentary on higher education that this is considered a brave and bold move,” writes Mary Katharine Ham on The Federalist.

But there’s plenty of outrage, writes Reason‘s Robby Soave.

The New Republic‘s Jeet Heer called Ellison’s letter a “perverse document” that limits academic freedom by telling professors they can’t issue “trigger warnings,” if they choose.

“The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education confirmed with the university that its statement should not be read as a ban on trigger warnings,” responds Soave.

Professors are free to warn — or not warn.

Slate‘s L.V. Anderson branded (the letter) “very odd,” while suggesting that the university is further marginalizing students who already feel marginalized.

Activist students should want their universities to treat them as thinking adults — rather than Mommy’s Special Snowflake — Soave argues. If the administration has the power to limit unpopular speech, students lose power.

At University of Georgia, Dr. Naomi Graber defines “safe space” as a place where students can voice unpopular views without risking a lower grade — or ridicule. Her syllabus assures students “they will not be penalized for being ‘wrong’ in discussion sections” and asks them to “challenge ideas, not people.”

UW-Stout hides ‘offensive’ painting

French Trappers on the Red Cedar

Two paintings that offended some Native Americans will be moved from public view at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Chancellor Bob Meyer said the artwork created in 1936 “stood in the way of an effort to create an inclusive and comfortable environment for everyone.”

A painting of French trappers and Native Americans in canoes will be moved to a conference room, where it can be viewed by appointment, while a painting of a fort will be in the university archives, which “provides for controlled access.”

“Rest assured, political correctness played absolutely no role in this tough decision,” said Meyer in a statement.

Requiring Mexican pledge is OK

The First Amendment protects students against being forced to recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance — but not against being required to recite the Mexican pledge, a federal appeals court ruled last week.

How can that be? Reciting the Mexican pledge was class participation, not symbolic speech, writes Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor, on Bloomberg View.

In 2011, at a McAllen, Texas high school, Spanish teacher Reyna Santos told students to memorize and recite the Mexican Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem for a celebration of Mexican Independence Day.

Santos later testified the exercise was designed to build cultural awareness and language fluency.

Brenda Brinsdon, whose mother is from Mexico, objected. After appealing to the principal, she was given a writing assignment. (She received a C, while nearly everyone who took the pledge got an A.)

Using a “spy pen,” she recorded classmates taking the pledge and her father alerted the media. Brinsdon was removed from Spanish class as a disruptive influence. She completed Spanish III as an independent study in the principal’s office.

And she filed suit. The court was correct to reject Brinsdon’s suit, argues Feldman.

What makes the forced recitation of the U.S. pledge unconstitutional is that it prescribes an orthodox belief and makes students symbolically express their commitment to it. Crucially, the U.S. pledge in U.S. schools isn’t being performed as a make-believe exercise. It’s meant sincerely, or at least it’s supposed to be.

In the Texas classroom, the Mexican pledge was not intended as an indication of loyalty to Mexico.

If students could opt out of assignments they dislike, even on grounds of conscience, it would impossible to teach, writes Feldman. “Someone would object to essentially every component, and the teacher would have to craft every lesson plan to avoid all the students’ tender consciences.”

‘Disturbing school’ law faces challenge

“Disturbing a school” or acting “in an obnoxious manner” is a crime in South Carolina, but the law is unconstitutionally vague, charges the ACLU. Thousands of students — disproportionately African-American — have faced charges, says the civil rights group.

Niya Kenny didn't return to high school after her arrest for "disturbing a school."

After her arrest for “disturbing a school,” Niya Kenny dropped out and earned her GED.

The ACLU is challenging the law on behalf of Niya Kenny, who was arrested last fall after a school police officer violently removed a classmate who’d refused the teacher’s order to put away her phone.

Kenny stood up and cursed the officer, but didn’t interfere with the arrest, she told the New York Times.

Kenny was calling attention to police abuse, according to the ACLU’s account:

Fields picked the girl up, flipped her in her desk, and then grabbed an arm and a leg to throw her across the room. Niya stood up and called out, she recalled later. “Isn’t anyone going to help her?” she asked. “Ya’ll cannot do this!”

Niya was arrested, handcuffed, charged as an adult, and taken to jail.

Afraid to return to school, Kenny dropped out, missing her senior year, and earned a GED. She’s set to appear in court on “disturbing” charges in September.

The ACLU is also challenging another law, which makes it a crime for students to conduct themselves in a “disorderly or boisterous” fashion.

Let’s concede that teachers need to enforce order in the classroom. Does it make sense to criminalize disruptive,  “obnoxious” and “boisterous” behavior? How many of us would have escaped a criminal record if we’d been held liable in court for being obnoxious?

Increasingly, school police officers are equipped with Tasers.

That’s not funny! 

Political correctness is “an interesting mixing of progressive ideals with fascist tactics,” said Kelly Carlin, daughter of the late comedian George Carlin, at a Foundation for Individual Rights and Education (FIRE) event in Philadelphia.

Joining her were Rain Pryor and Kitty Bruce, daughters of late comedians Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce.

Updating the 1st Amendment

From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

“Disagreement is not oppression,” writes Nicholas Christakis, the Yale professor accused of not creating a sufficiently safe space for students troubled by insensitive Halloween costumes. “The answer to speech we do not like is more speech,” he writes. Christakis and his wife have stepped down as what used to be known as “house masters.”

At the University of Northern Colorado, two professors were reported to the Bias Response Team for asking students to discuss controversial issues, reports Heat Street.

One professor “asked students to read an Atlantic article entitled The Coddling of the American Mind, about college students’ increasing sensitivity and its impact on their mental health,” reports Heat Street.

The professor then asked his students to come up with difficult topics, including transgender issues, gay marriage, abortion and global warming. He outlined competing positions on these topics, though he did not express his personal opinion.

In a report to the Bias Response Team, a student complained that the professor referenced the opinion that “transgender is not a real thing, and no one can truly feel like they are born in the wrong body.”

The team told the professor to avoid transgender issues.

Another professor told students to pick from a debate topic from a list that included homosexuality and religion. A student complained students were “required to listen to their own rights and personhood debated.”