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Eye on the News

Dennis Saffran
Lewis & Clark’s Racial Inquisition
How good-natured joshing turned two college football teammates into pariahs.
12 August 2014
Photo by M.O. Stevens

Has it really come to this? This spring, the estimable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reported on a case out of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, in which two friends and football teammates—one black, one white—were punished for joking about race during a game of beer pong at a private dorm party in November 2013. No one at the party was offended, but an informer in another room overheard the banter and turned them in.

The black student had jokingly named his beer pong team “Team Nigga” and would shout the name whenever the team scored. At some point, the white student—reprising a running joke on the football team, in which black students would greet white teammates with the phrase “White power!”—said, “Can I get a white power?” The black student replied, “White power!”

The noise from the party awakened a student in another room in the residence hall (no doubt, college football players of all races, creeds, and colors can be loud and rowdy while playing beer pong). She reported this exchange to the Campus Living office, and an inquisition began. Campus Living turned the matter over to the campus police, which launched an investigation into the “racial and biased comments” at the party. Learning of the comments’ origins on the football field—where not only did black players greet white players with “White power!”, but blacks and whites both used “What’s up nigga?” as a friendly greeting—the investigating officer spun into full Inspector Javert of the Left mode. As stated in his report, “I asked . . . which players . . .—naming them individually—commonly used the n-word” and “expressed hope that . . . [the black student] would shoulder the responsibility to speak up and shed some awareness to his teammates and friends about how those particularly racist comments, and other even less inflammatory biased comments, negatively affect community members of color—and the community as a whole.”

Justice was swift. Several days after the party, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the two students were charged with inflicting “Physical or Mental Harm” and “Discrimination or Harassment,” as well as with disorderly conduct. The complaint noted that the charges were based both on the banter at the party and on “suggest[ions] that similar language may have occurred at other times . . . in the Football team locker room, and around campus generally.” The students were told to submit the names of any defense witnesses by 9 a.m. on Monday morning following the break, and directed to appear at a hearing on Tuesday.

Within days after the hearing, the two were found guilty of all charges, placed on probation, and ordered on threat of suspension to undergo “Bias Reduction Training.” The ruling stated, without any support, that their “language ha[d] contributed to the creation of a hostile and discriminatory environment.” They were given five days to submit “full and complete appeals.” (By comparison, appellants in court have months to prepare their cases.) The appeals were rejected in less than two weeks.

Rarely does the modern Left’s humorlessness, authoritarianism, and subversion of its own goals come together as starkly as in this case. Today’s liberals not only threaten to create a 1984 culture, in which informers who overhear private conversations turn in the perpetrators for reeducation. More troublingly, in the name of “multiculturalism,” they also seek to ban the kind of affectionate ethnic teasing between friends that for years—long before our elite liberal betters came along to lecture us on “diversity”—has allowed people in this polyglot country to break down barriers between groups and bond with one another. The upshot is that the only intercultural relationships allowed will be the phony liberal ones at food coops and faculty lounges, in which no one ever talks except to mouth hackneyed dogma and platitudes, and, in the absence of honest and unstilted conversation, increasingly Orwellian efforts are employed to ferret out “unconscious bias” and “micro-aggressions.” It’s all done in the name of a false multiculturalism that increasingly drives people apart.

I don’t know if the “Bias Reduction” brainwashing worked on the Lewis & Clark teammates, or whether, to the gratification of the Investigating Officer, they emerged to lecture their friends on the evil of their former ways. But I’m sure that if it did work, it also created a wall between them, and that their new, exquisitely polite, politically correct relationship will never approach the closeness of their previous friendship. I hope, of course, that the reeducation efforts failed, and that, like Galileo in the dock, as the Bias Reduction Trainer droned on, they whispered to each other: “What’s up nigga?” “White power, bro!”

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