University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse writes a fascinating New York Times op/ed arguing that we should not let our emotions run away with us when we talk about race.Ron probably thought everybody remembered his big dispute with me back in January and would perceive a stunning revelation of my hypocrisy, but I see "his editor" -- my heartthrob, Nick Gillespie? -- made him add a link to his pissy old tirade so readers could see how deeply the old coot has it in for me.
That's very good advice.
As you can tell from that pissy tirade, the old coot loves to wallow in the belief that he is smarter and more profound than I am, but, unfortunately, he's not smart and profound enough to perceive that I am not contradicting myself. His aha falls splat.
My January dispute with Bailey was about the way hardcore libertarians are too in love with their abstract principles and sanitize the real context of race out of their analysis. Here is how I responded to Bailey's loutish attack on me back then.
Notice the similarity between what I was saying to Ron and what Professor Kaplan was trying to do in teaching his lesson about how law fails to deal with the way things are in real life. Both what I said and what -- I think -- Kaplan was trying to teach had to do with the way it's not good enough to deal in abstractions and how it's important to engage with how these abstractions play out in real life.
In the NYT column, I say:
Ironically, you have to care enough about engaging energetically with issues of race to run into this sort of trouble. It’s so much easier to skip the subject altogether, to embrace a theory of colorblindness or to scoop out gobs of politically correct pabulum. It’s only when you challenge the students and confront them with something that can be experienced as ugly... that you create the risk that someone may take offense.Ron Bailey, cocooned inside his abstractions, is the sort of person I am saying takes the easier path. I want for it to be possible to bring in the racial context that challenges the pat abstractions he fawns over himself for believing in.
I don't say it's wrong to bring emotion into a legal discussion. I am crediting Kaplan for not retreating from the things that make people emotional. I have never blamed the students for becoming passionate when he stirred up their emotions. That is a misreading of my column (which the preening Bailey does to accuse me of hypocrisy).
Look closely. I talk about Kaplan's "complicated pedagogical exercise" that "stirr[ed] up difficult emotions" in the students. That doesn't mean the students were wrong to respond on an emotional level. I think he wanted them to have deep feelings about law and society. The breakdown occurred because they didn't bring that passion to the discussion with the teacher but ran to complain to the law school dean -- using the scary phrase "a racially hostile learning environment" -- which led to attempts to cure them of their bad feelings.
My NYT column concludes:
Our question should not be about what we can do to make you comfortable or how we can make your life pleasant again.Clearly, I am objecting to those who were afraid of the students' strong emotions and who aimed at restoring comfort and pleasantness. I worried that this fear would chill classroom discussion and cause teachers to retreat into a more abstract, de-contextualized presentation.
We owe our law students respect, but part of that respect is the recognition that they are adults who are spending many thousands of dollars and hours of study trying to acquire the critical thinking and fortitude that will enable them to serve clients and to stand up to adversaries who are only too ready to shake their nerve....
The already cold Bailey thinks I have now decided I like the chill. I do not. I think there is something distorted and defective about reason drained of emotion. Or, more accurately, I think there is always emotion in reason, whether you admit it or not. That's why I was asking, back in January, what was that emotion that drove you to cling so hard to those abstractions you love so much. How do I know it isn't hatred?