Prof. Glenn Loury’s “Ilya Shapiro Moment” – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion “at the US Supreme Court is a very bad idea”
“Sorry, but practicing “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” at the US Supreme Court is a very bad idea. The Court should not be thought of as a ‘representative’ institution. So, go ahead and cancel me, too, for my ‘Ilya Shapiro moment’!”
It’s now been a full week since the reaction to Ilya Shapiro’s tweets about Joe Biden limiting his search for a Supreme Court vacancy to black women rocked academia. One thing is becoming clear, the initial burst of cancel fury and rage is giving way to sober reflection among people who care about academic freedom and free speech that what Georgetown Law is doing in suspending and investigating Shapiro is dangerous and unjustified.
See these prior posts for background:
- Profile In Cowardice: Georgetown Law Dean Bill Treanor Suspends Conservative Legal Scholar Ilya Shapiro
- Georgetown Law Student Protesters Demand Ilya Shapiro Firing, Reparations, Place To Cry, End To “Originalist” Center
- Stifling Debate And Purging Dissenters At Georgetown Law Over Ilya Shapiro
- Ilya Shapiro To Whoopi: “Let’s Talk … We Have To Disrupt This Toxic Cultural Moment In Favor Of Free Speech”
More evidence of the turn comes from Brown University Professor and popular YouTube channel host of The Glenn Show, Glenn Loury. In a clip from one of his shows, with frequent guest John McWhorter of Columbia University, Prof. Loury rejected the notion that “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” should drive Supreme Court nominations.
Recognizing that stating such an obvious point has Shapiro on the cusp of cancelation, Prof. Loury declared it his “Ilya Shapiro Moment”:
Sorry, but practicing “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” at the US Supreme Court is a very bad idea. The Court should not be thought of as a ‘representative’ institution. So, go ahead and cancel me, too, for my ‘Ilya Shapiro moment’!
Sorry, but practicing "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion" at the US Supreme Court is a very bad idea. The Court should not be thought of as a 'representative' institution. So, go ahead and cancel me, too, for my 'Ilya Shapiro moment'! pic.twitter.com/je5JtfnGxL
— Glenn Loury (@GlennLoury) February 4, 2022
Prof. McWhorter himself penned a post at his NY Times newsletter criticizing Shapiro, but rejecting the cancelation and denying that Shapiro’s tweets necessarily were racist, Don’t Assume Ilya Shapiro’s ‘Lesser Black Woman’ Tweet Was Racist:
His suspension is unnecessary and unjust.
To be sure, there is so much wrong with Shapiro’s position on Biden’s pending nomination that it’s almost hard to know where to begin….
There’s plenty take issue with here. But does it justify Georgetown placing Shapiro on leave, investigating him and potentially firing him? ….
It is impossible not to see it as a color line. Apparently, all bets are off on free speech when the issue is race.
Consider that last year, Georgetown Law fired adjunct professor Sandra Sellers after she was caught, at the end of a video meeting, noting to another instructor that Black students tended to cluster at the bottom of her classes, performance-wise. She wasn’t deriding the students — she said that every semester it gave her “angst” — but was instead posing the issue as a problem for which she sought a solution. Nevertheless, her calling attention to the problem at all, in that way, was judged grounds for dismissal.
I get the idea that some people agree with this bright line, such that anyone who says or writes something deemed as offensive by a critical mass of Black people, or another racial minority group, or our presumably progressive white allies, must face potential excommunication. Because of racism being America’s original sin, perhaps.
However, I differ. I cannot know whether Shapiro has a low opinion of the intellectual capabilities of Black people in general. Yet I cannot see even that as disqualifying him from a teaching position, especially given that in this case, we are dealing with more the perception of his having aired such an opinion than his having unequivocally done so. Racism is, to parrot Georgetown’s judgment on Fair, difficult, controversial and objectionable. That isn’t grounds for treating it the way medievals treated heresy.
And to insist that it is carries a grievous implication: that we Black people are ever so delicate. Last time I checked, we were strong. Strong people, frankly, don’t give a damn what a law school lecturer says about them on Twitter.
In the NY Times main opinion page, regular columnist Michelle Goldberg at NYT did a trollish post decrying what was happening to Shapiro (and using it to attack ‘red states’ supposedly doing the same things to liberals), Georgetown Law, Don’t Punish Your New Hire for His Bad Tweets
… it is a mistake for Georgetown to investigate or punish him, for two reasons, one abstract and one strategic. The abstract one is that however offensive Shapiro’s words were, they’re also the sort of political speech that should be protected by basic notions of academic freedom, which is why a number of people who detest what Shapiro said criticized Georgetown’s move. As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer wrote, “I’ve made my feelings about what he said clear but it’s impossible for academic institutions to fulfill their missions if they fire or punish people under circumstances like these.”
But punishing Shapiro for his tweets isn’t a bad idea just in principle. It also threatens to undermine the value of academic freedom at a time when that value is under sustained assault in many red states.
Megan McArdle in WaPo laid into Mark Joseph Stern, the Slate (yes, Slate still exists) writer who ignited the controversy and has come under withering criticism, What the outrage machine costs us all
At this late date, it seems almost unnecessary to point out that if you publicly accuse someone of racism, sexism or other similar wrongs, you are effectively calling for that person to be fired, or at the very least, to suffer some kind of workplace discipline. Yet apparently someone needs to restate the obvious.
Last week, Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern called the Internet’s attention to an offensively worded tweet from incoming Georgetown Law administrator Ilya Shapiro….
I raise this because it’s part of an odd pattern that has become alarmingly frequent in recent years: Someone gets called out, the Internet piles on, the offender’s employer comes under pressure — and then, as defenestration looms, key participants say, oh no, they weren’t calling for anyone to be fired. Occasionally, that’s even how the shamestorm is launched: I don’t want to get anyone fired, but …
What does it say about our culture that people who don’t want anyone fired keep participating in mass frenzies that will possibly — even probably — end with someone losing their job? And why do the firings keep happening if no one wants them to?…
Underneath Shapiro’s appalling word choice lay a vital moral and political question: Is it legitimate to rectify past discrimination with current discrimination? I’d argue that it is, not because today’s White males deserve to suffer for the sins of their forebears, but because demographic representation enhances democratic legitimacy.
However, Shapiro disagrees with me. So do most Americans, including a majority of non-White Americans. The subject is ripe for a public debate that we didn’t have. Instead, we discussed whether Shapiro’s choice of words made him a racist. As we have done so many times before, we turned one of the most sensitive, complex and important issues of our day into a binary referendum on one person: Ilya Shapiro, racist or not?
So perhaps before we weigh in on the day’s two-minute hate, we should be asking ourselves whether the offense is really grave enough to be worth the likely consequences — to the target, and to civic deliberation. Otherwise, we become collectively responsible for the inevitably miserable results: the problems we never get anywhere closer to solving, and the employers who keep voting for the easy way out.
This tweet seems to sum up the emerging consensus among responsible people:
Modest proposal: Don't suspend Whoopi Goldberg. Don't fire Ilya Shapiro. Don't banish Joe Rogan. Don't pressure Amazon to stop carrying certain books. Don't practice heavy-handed social media deplatforming.
Fight bad speech with better speech, not by censoring or deplatforming.
— Brian Riedl 🧀 (@Brian_Riedl) February 2, 2022
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