Tulane Canceled a Talk by the Author of an Acclaimed Anti-Racism Book After Students Said the Event Was 'Violent'Breaking News
tags: racism, free speech, Ku Klux Klan, colleges and universities
Life of a Klansman: A Family History of White Supremacy is the latest book by Edward Ball, whose award-winning 1998 book Slaves in the Family traces the histories of people enslaved by Ball's own ancestors. In Klansman, Ball tells the story of a racist great-grandfather who joined the Ku Klux Klan.
The New York Times hailed it as "a haunting tapestry of interwoven stories that inform us not just about our past but about the resentment-bred demons that are all too present in our society today," and the anti-racism scholar Ibram X. Kendi participated in a virtual discussion about it with Ball. Tulane University was slated to host another such event, featuring Ball and Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, an assistant professor of geography and African American studies.
That event was supposed to take place tonight, but the university opted to postpone it following blinkered outrage from students who insisted that the event was "not only inappropriate but violent towards the experience of Black people in the Tulane community and our country." Other members of the Tulane community called it "harmful and offensive," and demanded its cancellation. Still others said the university should apologize and take action against whoever approved the event. (I verified that the people who made these kinds of comments were Tulane students, graduates, and employees. I chose not to name most of them in order to prevent individual harassment, though I did identify two student government officials who affixed their names to an appalling demand for censorship.)
The feedback was so unhinged that a casual observer might wonder whether they mistakenly thought the book was written by a Klansman, or endorsed the Klan. The comments on the event's announcement page—as well as statements by student government officials—make it abundantly clear this is not the case. They know exactly what the book's point of view is.
"The last thing we need to do is allow someone who is even reflecting on the hatred of their ancestors to speak about white supremacy, even if their efforts come from a place of accountability," one student wrote on Instagram.
Again, this is a book that NPR called "resonant and important." The New Republic—currently one of the woke-est of the progressive magazines—wrote that Ball "builds a psychological portrait of white supremacy, which then radiates outward and across time, to explain the motives and historical background behind racist violence." Yet leaders of Tulane's student body think it is their solemn duty to prevent anyone from learning about this history.