Tulane University canceled an event after students complained that a proposed speech was “violent.” No, the speaker isn’t conservative. He isn’t even guilty of woke wrongthink. In fact, he wrote an anti-racist book praised by The New York Times, NPR, The New Republic, and anti-racism scholar Ibram X. Kendi. No, students canceled him because of the very ancestry that gave him a voice when it comes to confronting the Ku Klux Klan.
Edward Ball recently published Life of a Klansman: A Family History of White Supremacy, a follow-up to his award-winning 1998 book Slaves in the Family, which traces the histories of people enslaved by his own ancestors. The recent book zeroes in on the story of a racist great-grandfather who joined the KKK.
Ball vociferously condemns the KKK, white supremacy, and racism. Tulane had scheduled a virtual discussion with the author, but later caved to student pressure and “postponed” the event with no indication that it will be rescheduled, Reason‘s Robby Soave reported.
Students reportedly argued that the event was “not only inappropriate but violent towards the experience of Black people in the Tulane community and our country.” Some Tulane students, graduates, and employees called the event “harmful and offensive,” demanding its cancellation.
“The feedback was so unhinged that a casual observer might wonder whether they mistakenly thought the book was written by a Klansman, or endorsed the Klan,” Soave reported. “The comments on the event’s announcement page—as well as statements by student government officials—make it abundantly clear this is not the case. They know exactly what the book’s point of view is.”
“The last thing we need to do is allow someone who is even reflecting on the hatred of their ancestors to speak about white supremacy, even if their efforts come from a place of accountability,” one student wrote on Instagram.
“There is nothing that a book on white supremacy written by the descendant of a Klansman can do to promote or influence an anti-racism atmosphere,” wrote another.
Tulane’s student government also condemned the event in a letter to the administration “on behalf of the entire student body.”
“An apology is the first step in undoing the harm you have caused many members of the community, but is in no way the last,” two student government leaders wrote in the letter. “In the current political atmosphere, it is imperative that we are all actively anti-racist, and endorsing speakers like these is antithetical to the anti-racist work being done by students, faculty, and staff on our campus.”
Tulane postponed the event and has not yet rescheduled it. When one Tulane graduate expressed his disappointment with the effective cancellation, an associate director in Tulane’s admissions office responded, “Go cry about it.”
As Soave noted, the outraged students did not demand additional speakers of color. Instead, they appear to believe that the very suggestion that Ball would be allowed to speak in a virtual space is an act of violence against black students. It seems to make no difference that Ball has condemned his racist ancestors — he must be silenced.
The attack on Ball did not come in a vacuum. Last month, Tulane’s Black Student Union released a list of demands including a zero-tolerance policy for offensive language and reparations for students who claim to have suffered emotional trauma.
The ridiculous demands are a piece with the cancel culture silencing of Edward Ball. As Soave noted, Life of a Klansman is no conservative manifesto. It seems the demands almost don’t even matter — the point is to exercise control in the name of fighting racism.
Two of the co-founders of the official Black Lives Matter movement have identified themselves as “trained Marxists,” and the organization’s official platform pushes for a total overhaul of America’s cultural and institutional framework. Portland activist Lilith Sinclair — who has become notorious for calling for the “abolition” of “the United States as we know it” — argued for a kind of brainwashing to “undo the harm of colonized thought that has been pushed onto Black and indigenous communities. That’s in regards to Christianity, and in regards to all of these different types of oppressive systems” such as “the gender binary.”
It seems Marxist activists will wield race as a weapon against anything, from real instances of police abuse to capitalism and the Constitution, even to the nuclear family and the basic reality of biological sex.
Yet it seems cancel culture has moved beyond wrongthink. It is not enough for someone like Edward Ball to oppose racism, to condemn the KKK, and to spout the woke orthodoxy The New York Times admires. No, he must be silenced — either because he is white or because his ancestors (whom he condemns) were members of the KKK. This amounts to outright prejudice, either on the basis of race or on the basis of ancestry. Anti-racist activists are now embracing racism.
At what point do Americans wake up to the fact that the Marxist movement propelled by Black Lives Matter is not really about fighting racism?
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.