The trial evidence was stark and brutal. In the early-morning hours of Dec. 9, 1981, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner conducted a traffic stop at the intersection of 13th and Locust Streets. A scuffle ensued with the driver, one William Cook.
After subduing the driver, Faulkner began to search him for weapons. It was then that Cook’s brother, Wesley, approached from behind and shot Faulkner in the back. As Faulkner fell, he managed to shoot — but not incapacitate — Wesley. Then, as the grievously wounded officer lay helpless on the cold pavement, Wesley Cook, also known as Mumia Abu-Jamal, executed him with a close-range shot to the head.
Daniel Faulkner was 25 years old.
To a multiracial jury of Philadelphians, this evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Abu-Jamal was a cold-blooded murderer deserving of the death penalty. But, in the fever swamps of the progressive world, this former Black Panther was deemed to be a heroic political prisoner who had been framed by racist prosecutors because, as a journalist, he had purportedly criticized the police.
Over time, liberal academia took up his cause. In 1991, Abu-Jamal published an essay on the death penalty in the Yale Law Journal. He was the keynote speaker, in absentia, at Antioch College’s 2000 graduation and in 2014 at Goddard College. In 2007, the New College of California School of Law presented him with an honorary degree.
Similarly, in 1999, he was the graduation speaker — albeit by an audio recording sent from death row — at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. As best as I can determine, that was the first time that ESC achieved national notoriety. But it wouldn’t be the last.
In April, minority students and faculty at ESC proclaimed a “Day of Absence” on which all white people were to be excluded from campus. Why the ban? Because of President Trump, of course.
According to ESC’s student paper, due to the upsetting results of the 2016 election, students of color no longer felt comfortable on campus. Banning all whites for the day would afford these fragile souls an opportunity to reassert their right to belong on campus.
Bret Weinstein, an ESC biology professor, published a thoughtful and carefully worded email respectfully objecting to the proposed ban. He quite reasonably observed that the exclusion of white people from campus solely because of their color would be a racist act. He concluded by writing, “You may assume that I will be on campus on the Day of Absence.”
The result? Angry students occupied and barricaded ESC’s library and held the school’s administrators hostage. And they demanded Weinstein’s resignation.
For good measure, as depicted in an online video, Weinstein was surrounded outside his classroom by shouting and cursing students who refused to let him speak. As he attempted to reason with the howling mob, one sneering student was cheered as he yelled, “We don’t care what terms you want to speak on. …We are not on speaking terms — on terms of white privilege. You have lost that one.”
On the appointed day, Weinstein had to hold class off campus because of the threats of violence.
In response to queries by the news media, Weinstein calmly asserted that “on a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — should never be based on skin color.”
This seemingly unremarkable position resulted in more than 50 ESC professors — almost one-quarter of the faculty — issuing a statement demanding “a disciplinary investigation against” Weinstein, who, they claimed, had “endangered faculty, staff, and students, making them targets of white supremacist backlash by promulgating misinformation in public emails, on national television, in news outlets, and on social media.” In short, for daring to respectfully dissent from the prevailing campus orthodoxy, Weinstein must be punished. His professional future remains in doubt.
OK, so ESC is a mess. Why, you may ask, should we care what happens at this academic loony bin? Because ESC is not an isolated case. It is an extreme, but nevertheless materially representative, example of the prevailing thinking and practices at too many institutions of higher learning across the country.
For example, in March, Vermont’s Middlebury College invited conservative social scientist Charles Murray to speak. Professor Allison Stanger, a Democrat, served as the faculty facilitator for the event. But, instead of an intellectual exchange of ideas, chanting protesters took over the lecture hall. When Murray and Stanger retreated to another room to conduct the discussion by means of a live video feed, protesters banged on the windows and pulled fire alarms. When Murray and Stanger exited, they were surrounded by the mob. Stanger was grabbed, shoved, assaulted, and wound up in the hospital. She later wrote that she feared for her life.
There have been other equally disturbing examples of on-campus goon tactics aimed at preventing the discussion of dissenting or unpopular views. In the name of diversity, inclusiveness, safe spaces, and political correctness, self-righteous and self-regarding social-justice warriors are endeavoring to eradicate free speech and suppress any point of view with which they disagree. In too many instances, with the cowed acquiescence of invertebrate school administrators, they are accomplishing their goals by use of force, threats of violence, and intimidation.
Some claim to be fighting against “hate,” but their elastic definition of that term appears to include any idea that makes them feel ill at ease or “unsafe.”
Ironically and alarmingly, a concomitant result of this political correctness has been the revitalization of racial segregation. ESC’s Day of Absence is only one manifestation of this neosegregation. Harvard, Brown, and other schools have conducted separate black graduation ceremonies. Other schools maintain separate dormitories for minority students. For what reason and to what end?
In his 1963 speech at the March on Washington, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a champion of nonviolence, famously intoned, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Well, that was then. A peaceful, colorblind society? Not if liberal academia’s political and racial grievance industry has anything to say about it. The academics may pay lip service to King, but, if you take the time to parse their convoluted rhetoric, you will realize that cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and his angry, violence-prone ilk are today’s big men on campus.
George Parry is a former state and federal prosecutor practicing law in Philadelphia. firstname.lastname@example.org