In our two prior posts, we explained how NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was shouted down at Brown University by protesters against NYC’s stop and frisk policy:
- Brown U. students shout down Ray Kelly
- Brown U. student called “White Supremacist” for wanting to hear Ray Kelly speak
The protesters decided that others should not get to hear what Kelly had to say on the topic. One protester, Jenny Li (pictured above) revelled in the shut down:
So we drafted a petition last Thursday and as of today [October 29, 2013] there are over 500 signatures. We delivered it to the Taubman Center [at Brown] and they didn’t respond to our demand to cancel the lecture, so today we cancelled it for them.
It probably will not surprise you that Li is a fellow at the People for the American Way Foundation, the liberal activist group that runs the Right Wing Watch blog among other activities.
Author Mychal Denzel Smith writing at The Nation plays into every stereotype of liberal intolerance in supporting the shout down, and terming it “glorious”, Brown University Booed Ray Kelly and Racism (emphasis added):
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly of stop-and-frisk fame was scheduled to speak at Brown University yesterday and deliver the school’s annual Noah Krieger ’93 Memorial Lecture. The title of his speech, and I’m not making this up, was “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City.” What happened instead was glorious.
After about thirty minutes of booing and interruptions, the lecture was cancelled. University President Christina H. Paxson said, “The conduct of disruptive members of the audience is indefensible and an affront both to civil democratic society and to the University’s core values of dialogue and the free exchange of views,” and wrote a letter expressing her disappointment, calling it a “sad day for the Brown community.” I understand this type of action is unseemly to some. It would have been more “civilized” to engage in a debate of ideas with Commissioner Kelly, rather than heckling him. But treating racism as a legitimate ideology doesn’t do anyone any favors….
A group of students decided they would rather not hear a justification for racism, and after their attempts to protest Kelly’s appearance didn’t work, they took to more drastic measures. For that I applaud them.
Of course, the question then becomes “who gets to decide what is and is not a legitimate opinion?” It’s tricky. There will never be an answer that satisfies everyone. But yesterday, Brown University students declared racism had no place in their intellectual discourse.
Needless to say, the racial discrimination component in the NYC stop and frisk case was a lot more complex than activists claim. As Cornell law professor Sherry Colb explained after the decision, a lot of the analysis used by a federal court to find the practice unlawful was a battle of baseline models:
In the course of its analysis of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause question, the district court considered an important question that currently has no definitive answer: What is the baseline against which one ought to determine whether and when police officers (or others) have engaged in discriminatory profiling? That is, what would an officer’s behavior (or the conduct of a group of officers) have looked like if it did not result from racially discriminatory motives? ….
In Floyd v. City of New York, the plaintiffs and defendants offered very different baselines for determining—based on statistics—whether the police were involved in racial profiling in conducting their stops and frisks. The defendants argued that the appropriate baseline is the proportion of African Americans and Hispanics among the population of criminal suspects. That is, to determine whether police stops and frisks depart from a race-neutral norm, the defendants said the right question is whether the proportion of stops and frisks that are of African Americans and Hispanics deviates from the proportion of criminal suspects in the relevant area who are African American or Hispanic.
The district court judge rejected this proposed baseline, explaining that almost all of the people stopped by the police turned out to be innocent, and we therefore have no reason to expect their demographic characteristics, absent discrimination, to mirror those of the criminal-suspect population. She accordingly adopted the baseline proposed by the plaintiffs, determining that we should be looking at the population demographics in the relevant area and at the crime rates in different neighborhoods, to identify what race-neutral stop-and-frisk numbers would look like.
This is, of course, too nuanced for Ms. Li and Mr. Smith.
Instead, Ms. Li and Mr. Smith are following a now-familiar pattern: Demonize a speaker as racist and use the unilateral designation to shut down speech. It’s mob rule.DONATE
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