"Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. It's kind of a cutting edge, progressive theory on ending racism in the United States.
The second part, of course, is meant to be the crucial check -- I'm assuring folks it's not the latest brochure from the Knights of the White Camellia.
But in my scariest nightmares, the worst I imagined was I'd get a glare or a hostile encounter. I never thought I might get tagged with racial harassment for reading a book opposed to racism. But Paul Secunda at Concurring Opinions tells us that it appears to be what happened at IUPUI, where an employee (and student) was disciplined for reading a book entitled Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan.
First, a shop steward told Sampson that reading a book about the KKK was like bringing pornography to work (apparently this holds true in his eyes regardless of the context in which a book discusses the KKK, the position it takes, and so on). Likewise, a co-worker who happened to be sitting across the table from Sampson in the break room remarked that she found the KKK offensive. On both occasions, Sampson tried to explain what the book was really about. Both times, the other individual refused to listen.
A few weeks later, Sampson was notified by Marguerite Watkins of the school's Affirmative Action Office (AAO) that a co-worker had filed a racial harassment complaint against him for reading the book in the break room. Once again, he attempted to explain the book's content, but Watkins too had no interest in hearing it. Despite his not being given a chance to defend himself, he subsequently received a letter from Lillian Charleston of the AAO, dated November 25, 2007, informing him that AAO had completed its investigation of the matter. The letter stated,You demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your coworkers who repeatedly requested that you refrain from reading the book which has such an inflammatory and offensive topic in their presence...you used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your Black coworkers.
It went on to say that according to "the legal 'reasonable person standard,' a majority of adults are aware of and understand how repugnant the KKK is to African-Americans..." As a result of AAO's findings, Sampson was ordered to refrain from reading the book in the immediate presence of his co-workers and to sit apart from them whenever reading it.
In the comments at CC, Michael Manister notes how the particular nexus of laws in play here -- mixed with legal precedent decimating employee free speech rights -- makes a suit by the employee nearly impossible to pull off. Because of that, Howard Wasserman argues that the incentive structure of anti-discrimination law pushes the university to act in this way specifically because the sanction employee is in a weaker position and likely can't fire back.
It appears that the University has now walked its position back (sort of), but in a way that still leaves open the chance for serious abuse. Just a stupid situation by the university.