Another week, another look at what passes for racial unrest in America’s universities. This time, our example actually comes from American University, where students and administrators are all a-flutter because some joker hung six bananas around the campus from tiny “nooses” made of string. A practical joke you can proudly tell your grandchildren about? Perhaps not. An atrocity so horrifying that the Washington Post Editorial Board needs to weigh in? Well, apparently.
Weigh in they did. Last week, the esteemed board of learned journalists praised American University for the “smart” choices they made, which included giving in to the usual round of minority protests and demands that always follow these things:
If the bananas stunt’s perpetrator had hoped to ignite a spasm of fear and fury on the university’s leafy Northwest campus, they succeeded, but beyond that it’s difficult to know what they hoped to achieve. A small student demonstration was defused by administrators who immediately acceded to the protesters’ demands and said they would go even further to foster racial sensitivity and responsiveness on campus, and the FBI quickly joined the investigation into an episode deemed a hate crime.
In a rising national tide of racial intolerance, colleges have not been spared puerile, pathetic and threatening incidents, which play on the volatile campus sensitivities of an era defined by trigger warnings and safe spaces. At AU, African American and other students demanded a “sanctuary space” be established for minority students at a campus cafeteria; a policy granting extensions for final exams to minority students; and an open-door policy for outside groups such as the NAACP to investigate hate crimes and racial incidents at the university.
It’s very strange to see that the editorial board clearly understands why these incidents are happening and yet seems to believe that the response to the provocations should be to indulge these safe-spacers with as many security blankets as the school administrators can find in the wardrobe. One wonders how many safe spaces and how many racial sensitivity training sessions it will take to ensure that no one ever hangs a banana on campus again. And if there is such a number, what have we really accomplished? If hanging bananas was the reaction to the oversensitivity we’ve seen so far, what will be the reaction to an increased amount of the same? Maybe these colleges shouldn’t push their luck.
Schools should certainly reinforce certain standards of conduct and discourage racist demonstrations, but beyond that, you’re just asking for trouble. As odious as it may be, a hanging banana is still representative of free speech. And if we don’t protect the worst examples of free speech, then we don’t HAVE free speech.
You’d think a newspaper whose subtitle is “Democracy dies in darkness” would understand that.