James Gill: This teacher has been accused of racism in the classroom. But he recorded his lectures. | Columnist James Gill
Walter Block is accused of violating the “values, mission and politics” which are “at the heart” of “the Jesuit and Catholic identity” of Loyola University in New Orleans, where he is a professor of economy.
It would be even more shocking if Block weren’t an 80-year-old libertarian Jew and a “devout atheist” from Brooklyn. It’s a humorous fate that took his college career to its peak in a papal fortress in the Deep South and extended it into an era of whiny students and spineless administrators who always seem to side with them.
It’s not really news that some of the charges against Block have allegedly been rocked by his “racist, homophobic, transphobic and sexist statements.” It happens so often that university authorities recently subjected him to the exquisite torture of “sensitivity training”.
There was nothing like it in the hardiest days of his youth.
That new charges have been laid against Block doesn’t necessarily mean that trying to re-educate the geezers is a waste of time, even though he probably was. Block is clearly about as sensitive as he ever will be.
But he may no longer be in the hot water for some fault of his own, as students generally misinterpret what their teachers say, especially if those teachers have a reputation for fanaticism.
James Gill: Some people want to fire Walter Block for âracist and sexist beliefsâ. But he has tenure.
There is no doubt that Block has often been scoffed at. Students, for example, lodged the absurd complaint that he compared Gandhi’s successful efforts to free India from British colonial rule with Hitler’s attempts to exterminate the Jews.
However, Block can sometimes fail to understand how delicate the sensibilities of young people can be these days. He still doesn’t seem to understand why he was sentenced to awareness training after explaining to a class that income is determined by productivity. The more cotton you can pick, the more you earn, which is how he chose to make his point, after which a black student whose ancestors worked on a plantation took umbrage.
Block should have seen it coming.
His worst trouble came in 2014, when he was quoted in The New York Times as saying that “slavery was not that bad” because “you could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed. with good oatmeal, etc. The âonly real problem,â he said, was that slaves were denied the right to free association. Block was upset because reporters thought he was talking about real slavery when he was talking about the voluntary type. When asked where the volunteer slaves were, he admitted that they don’t exist but explained that, in an attempt to get journalists to understand libertarian principles, he was speaking in a hypothetical way. Block is a longtime advocate of reparations for the descendants of slaves.
The latest complaints against Block, explains provost Tanuja Singh in a letter to him, arose during an “ongoing investigation into alleged similar behavior.” The accusations are that Block claimed that “women are paid less because they are lazy or incapable” and that “it is the same with people of color”. Singh warns that Block, however titular, could be the subject of “disciplinary proceedings” for having created a “hostile and discriminatory environment”.
Block, who records all of his lectures, demanded to be shown where he made those silly remarks. He’s still waiting for an answer.
He may offend delicate sensibilities when he explains all the possible reasons for economic disparities, for example, but he would have to be the dumbest professor in the world to condemn women and black people out of hand.