Hoax and Hysteria at Harvard Law School
December 4, 2015

Students at Harvard Law School are in the middle of an episode of a really weird game that has been going on for decades. Similar episodes are currently breaking out on campuses all over America.

In December of 1986, on the campus of The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a racially offensive flier was slipped under the door of a dormitory lounge where a group of black women were studying. That was the beginning of a period of intense racial activism that lasted until March.

Supposedly in response to that activism, U of M began a program of radical affirmative action, which was challenged in court. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the U of M Law School form of affirmative action was O.K., but the undergraduate admissions program was not. In any case, after a long political struggle, Michigan voters passed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and the consideration of race, etc., in college admissions was forbidden. That led to another long court battle. A few years ago the U.S. Supreme Court let the MCRI stand.

That all started, publically at least, with a flier slipped under the door of a dormitory lounge. I've written a longish essay ( Virtual Racism at the University of Michigan in the Winter of 1987) where I discuss the aftermath of the flier and other events.

The current Harvard episode and the 1987 Michigan episode, along with other past and present outbreaks of racial activism on campuses, have elements in common:

The gaffer tape placed across the faculty portraits was the same kind of tape that had been placed over the Law School seal which was based on the crest of the Isaac Royall family. That suggests the event was something other than a "hate crime." It might have been political intimidation by black students against black professors. It might have been an outright hoax.

Hoaxes, non-events, insignificant events and massively misconstrued events have been key features of campus racial activism at least for the last 30 years and are major contributors to racial tensions and antagonisms in America. So it pleases me that the Fall 2015 Racial Hoaxapalooza is blowing up in the faces of those who so ineptly tried to engineer it.

Copyright © 2015

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