As the rest of the country was still mourning the massacre, Butler took to Twitter to re-cast the tragedy in racial terms. She wrote: “Since no one else will ask, I will. Did those children die because most of them were Mexican American and the police didn’t give a damn about a school w predominately brown kids? I mean, because it’s Texas … and if you think everyone who isn’t white is illegal …”
Critics have pointed out that Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodríguez is Latino as is Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pedro Arredondo. Many of the officers at the scene were Latino. Butler’s suggestion of racism was even more offensive given the stories of officers with children at the school and among the dead.
Last year, Butler publicly condemned what she called “colorblind racism” of people who insist that they do not judge on the basis of a person’s skin: “When people say to you, ‘I don’t see color, I see what Jesus sees in you,’ that really actually means that they just see white.” She lashed out at evangelical Christians who, she claimed, “may end up killing us all” due to their “racism, sexism, homophobia, lack of belief in science, lack of belief and common sense.”
This weekend, we discussed the different treatment given liberal and conservative speakers at Boston University after students passed a resolution calling a conservative speaker a danger to their safety. They further declared that “intentionally incendiary speech and rhetoric” is unprotected by free speech principles. Yet, Boston University Professor Saida Grundy the same week made incendiary comments to justify criminal acts, including looting, as racial justice. Grundy has a history of racial statements against white students and faculty. As I noted, both speakers should be protected by the same free speech values.
The support enjoyed by faculty on the far left is in sharp contrast to the treatment given faculty with moderate, conservative or libertarian views. Anyone who raises such dissenting views is immediately set upon by a mob demanding their investigation or termination. This includes blocking academics from speaking on campuses like a recent Classics professor due to their political views. Conservatives and libertarians understand that they have no cushion or protection in any controversy, even if it involves a single, later deleted tweet.
One such campaign led to a truly tragic outcome with criminology professor Mike Adams at the University of North Carolina (Wilmington). Adams was a conservative faculty member with controversial writings who had to go to court to stop prior efforts to remove him. He then tweeted a condemnation of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper for his pandemic rules, tweeting that he had dined with six men at a six-seat table and “felt like a free man who was not living in the slave state of North Carolina” before adding: “Massa Cooper, let my people go.” It was a stupid and offensive tweet. However, we have seen extreme comments on the left — including calls to gas or kill or torture conservatives — be tolerated or even celebrated at universities.
Celebrities, faculty and students demanded that Adams be fired. After weeks of public pummeling, Adams relented and took a settlement to resign. He then killed himself a few days before his final day as a professor.
Likewise, Georgetown Professor Ilya Shapiro remains suspended after a poorly worded tweet that he also deleted. He also apologized but it was not enough to protect him from a national campaign for his termination.
The professors who have called for such terminations are conspicuously silent when controversial tweets or statements come from the far left. Dissenting faculty know that few of their colleagues will step toward to defend them against such attacks.
In the case of Professor Butler, she knows that she can write and advocate without fear of university actions to remove her. That is precisely what all faculty should enjoy as a matter of academic freedom and free speech. However, it is a privilege often exercised selectively today. Universities are often quick to denounce conservative or libertarian faculty while ordering investigations and other measures in response to such controversies.
The confidence (rightfully) enjoyed by Professor Butler is the inverse of the constant threat faced by the dwindling number of conservative and libertarian faculty at schools like Penn.