“Either You Are Anti-Racist or Racist”: California Professor Put On Administrative Leave After Commenting On The Japanese Internment Camps

Last November, the Santa Barbara City College announced the selection of Joyce Coleman as the new vice president of the School of Extended Learning.  Now Coleman has been put on administrative leave due to a comment made about Japanese internment camps that was denounced as causing “great harm” to the Asian community. The action is particularly notable given Coleman’s own campaign against racism in education.  Coleman, who is African American, has been a prominent voice against racism in society and particularly in education.  She reportedly observed in March in a Zoom event that “There is no such thing as not being racist. Either you are anti-racist or racist.” As will come as no surprise to many on this blog, I believe that Coleman’s statement should be considered protected by free speech and academic freedom principles. 

Coleman also has been quoted as explaining that “white folks are all on a journey to realize their own guilt.” She is now on a journey of her own after being the subject of a formal investigation after a comment that she made at the SBCC’s Equal Opportunity Advisory Committee on March 23, according to Santa Barbara Independent. The Committee had formed a new “affinity group” on behalf of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community after the March shooting in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six Asian women.

Coleman reportedly said “about time,” and then noted that she has always been perplexed by the response of the Japanese to their internment. The Independent reported:

“The complaint alleges Coleman, who is Black, reportedly greeted news of [a new campus affinity group on behalf of Asian-American Pacific Islanders] formation with the words, “About time,” and then described having visited an internment camp for Japanese and Japanese American people during World War II and wondering why the prisoners there “did not just leave,” given how small the fence was. By contrast, Coleman allegedly noted, Black American slaves formed the Underground Railroad and actively resisted.

Some campus faculty and staff took offense to what they described as “victim blaming,” charging that she inflicted “great harm” by her words and actions.

I can certainly understand why members of the AAPI community would be offended. However, the response should be to challenge Coleman’s assumptions and knowledge. Instead, some members of the community brought a formal complaint.  I agree with the AAPI community that the comments were ill-informed and insulting. Indeed, I found the comparison insulting to both groups.  Such comparisons rarely work out well. (Recently, a Holocaust surviver recently denounced progressives for repeatedly comparing immigration centers to “concentration camps.”).

However, Coleman was expressing her opinion in the comparison and she should be free to do as an individual and as a faculty member.  Indeed, this is the type of statement that could have been used for a great debate and exchange on campus. I would not be surprised if Professor Coleman ultimately amended her comments or apologized in the course of such a dialogue. Even if she did not, this could have been a learning experience as faculty and students compare the two great historical injustices perpetrated against the Black and Asian communities.

Professor Coleman may have been trying to show empathy for the Japanese Americans in the camps with her comparison to the intolerable conditions of slavery. I can see why it was received as deeply insulting but we all have a need to try to give the benefit of such doubts to each other in our public discourse.

I understand the need to write a letter condemning such comments. In the not-so-distant past, university officials would have noted the protections afforded to such views under free speech and academic principles. It would have then facilitated a meeting or, even better, a forum to discuss such historical and political issues.  Those days seem to have now passed.

Campuses have become places of growing intolerance where faculty and students use speech regulations to seek to silence those with opposing views. We often seem like institutions populated by little Madam Dufarges eager to give testimony against those who offend us. The prior default was free speech. We would have passionate but civil debate.  Even extreme views were heard on campuses as part of our commitment to open and uninhibited thought and speech.  We now appear to be collective censors and accusers.

Any “harm” caused by Professor Coleman’s remarks pales in comparison to the greater harm of speech regulation and curtailment on our campuses.

135 thoughts on ““Either You Are Anti-Racist or Racist”: California Professor Put On Administrative Leave After Commenting On The Japanese Internment Camps”

  1. Perhaps nothing could better explain conservatives’ deep condemnation of Critical Race Theory than this excerpt from Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association by Dr. Donald Moss, “On Having Whiteness”:

    “Whiteness is a condition one first acquires and then one has — a malignant, parasitic-like condition to which ‘white’ people have a particular susceptibility…The condition is foundational, generating characteristic ways of being in one’s body, in one’s mind, and in one’s world.

    “Parasitic Whiteness renders its hosts’ appetites voracious, insatiable, and perverse. These deformed appetites particularly target nonwhite peoples. Once established, these appetites are nearly impossible to eliminate…Effective treatment consists of a combination of psychic and social-historical interventions. Such interventions can reasonably aim only to reshape Whiteness’s infiltrated appetites — to reduce their intensity, redistribute their aims, and occasionally turn those aims toward the work of reparation.”

    “When remembered and represented, the ravages wreaked by the chronic condition can function either as warning (‘never again’) or as temptation (‘great again’). Memorialization alone, therefore, is no guarantee against regression. There is not yet a permanent cure.”


    Would this activist’s “permanent cure” for the “malignancy” of “whiteness” in any way resemble the Nazis’ “Final Solution” for the Jews?

    The rhetoric has parallels in unreasoning hatred of an entire race. In both cases, the target, be it Jews or whites, were referred to as parasites, born with insatiable predatory appetites.

    Are we really going to repeat history’s unlearned lessons? This is all coming from the Left, while the Left ludicrously claims conservatives are racist.

  2. Parents, do not send your children to universities that employ professors so blatantly racist against white people, and/or bigoted against men.

    It seems obvious that no one would want the person who holds power over them to be racist against them. Professors and administrators hold a tremendous amount of power over students and their future chances in life.

    By all means, engage in lively debate with people of all views. But it would be foolish to make yourself or your children vulnerable to open bigots willing to abuse power over them.

  3. >>“Anonymous the Stupid was appealing to authority.”
    >So what?

    There was no content regarding the question at hand. All you did was your usual, indirectly provide a link using a name.

    My argument was: ” No one questions M. Muller’s credentials. The statement dealing with lack of content had to do with your reply,”

  4. Either you indulge liberal exercise to indulge diversity [dogma] (i.e. color judgment) or you recognize the humanity of that colorful clump of cells a.k.a. “human” a.k.a. “person” a.k.a. “baby” a.k.a. “fetus” (if you are or need to be socially distant).

  5. She came for others and no one would come to their defense. Now they’ve come for her and no one on the left will come to her defense.

    They say the next big thing is here,
    That the revolution’s near,
    But to me it seems quite clear
    That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.

    Song writer Alex Gifford.

  6. I am a classical liberal and free speech absolutist…. However, I can not deny some schadenfreude at this racist being hoisted on her own petard. She is being shown the intolerance that she surely showed to others. She is a racist who sees everything in racialist terms. She believes in collective guilt of the white race. Why are we surprised that she thinks that her tribe, the blacks, somehow collectively resisted their subjugation better than the Asians? Racist people say racist things all the time. It needs to be pointed out over and over that these race hustlers are invariably the most racist ones of the bunch. Their racist statements, and there are many and often, though not subjected to prior restraint or retaliation by the government, should be called out vociferously as socially unacceptable.

    1. Racial comments are not automatically racist. Let me exercise my ‘white privilege’ here and raise the question of why is what she said deemed racism? Seems to me she made a legitimate observation regarding what may have appeared as not much of a barrier.

      Aren’t educators supposed to raise questions? Professor Turley, instead of defending her speech rights, question the RACE card issue….

      1. Blacks, as a tribe, compared favorably to Asians, as a tribe, because the Blacks resisted slavery more than the Asians resisted internment. I find that statement an ignorant over generalization, historically dubious, and racist. Just like collective white guilt (which she also espouses), she attributes isolated acts or failures to act by one tribe member to all tribe members. That premise denies the individual’s agency and is the mark of a racist.

      2. @Sam Todd

        First, there were armed guards.
        Second. Suppose they left the camps?
        Where would they go?
        Oh sure they blend in…
        The camps also had the effect of protecting them from persecution. Think about that.

        My Uncle served w the 1st Cav and 88th Artillery. Then occupation force Japan.
        He could forgive the Germans, but never the Japs.

        What do you think would have happened if a Japanese American walked down main street in some po dunk town in rural CA?
        Remember there was a war going on.

  7. Has anybody bothered to read Michelle Malkin definitive book on this matter. It actually has footnotes, references and all that scholarly stuff that democrats abhor preferring unnamed sources x

    1. “In Defense of Internment” by Michelle Malkin. Excellent, documented book. I referred to it in an earlier post.

  8. Either Baby Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter or neither matter.

    Diversity [dogma] (i.e. color judgment), not limited to racism, sexism, ageism, is a progressive (i,e. systemic) condition. The principle of political congruence (“=”) and the practice of inclusive exclusion exacerbates the progression.

    That said, diversity of individuals, minority of one. #HateLovesAbortion

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