- Multiculturalism and Educating for Shoah: Enlightenment or Endarkenment?
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- Purdue University Press
- Volume 13, Number 4, Summer 1995
- p. pp. 86-90
- View Citation
86 SHOFAR Summer 1995 Vol. 13, No.4 VIEWPOINT Multiculturalism and Educating for Shoah: Enlightenment or Endarkenment? by Zev Garber Judaic Studies Los Angeles Valley College These remarks were delivered at the Western Jewish Studies Conference, Holocaust Education, on April 4, 1995. For me, presenting Shoah in a multicultural classroom has augmented /elevated/revealed two areas of concern, which are the focus of this presentation for comment and dialogue: (1) campus free speech, and (2) survivors' fears and tears. I. Campus Free Speech In the current atmosphere of Political Correctness on American campuses, administrative rules and regulations responding to cases of racist speech, ethnic intolerance, and gender harassment have imposed sanctions on what to say, how to say, when to say, and where to say. Advocates of people sensitivity maintain that racial slurs are not a First Amendment right because the perpetrator's objective is not to discern truth or engage in mutual r~spect but to victimize the vulnerable. As they see it, their advocacy is in full accord with the Supreme Court decision wllich holds that assaultive speech, which "by [its] very utterance inflict[s] injury or tend[s] to incite an immediate breach of peace," is undeserving of First Amendment protection. Though the goal is admirable, Le., get rid of hate speech and vulgar mannerisms, opponents say . Granting of permission to any speaker does not mean that the University in any way sanctions, supports, or condones the content of that speaker's remarks. Permission [is1granted not only because of the importance of the Multiculturalism and Educating for Shoah 87 principle of freedom of speech, but also because that principle has been repeatedly upheld by the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court has ruled that speakers cannot be prohibited based on an anticipation that their remarks may be offensive or divisive, or even be based on an anticipation that their appearance may spark violence [italics addedj.l That is to say, restricting free speech is a form of thought control, which is a cover for opening up the floodgates of censorship that can drown the twin freedoms of speech and academics, the lifeblood of any respectable university. Apostles of unlimited free speech argue that the problem is not vilifying speech but racism, sexism, ageism, and what-have-you. They insist, let the universities go to the heart of the problem and seriously address overt and covert bigotry in the student body and not their mouth. The former is the source of the cancer, and the latter is a symptom. Let the universities mandate a required course in the history of racism, followed by a class in how to live and respect one another in an open, pluralistic society. Or, perhaps, the required class should be on the contributions of minorities to civilization, coupled with teach-in programs for better race relations. In the view of civil libertarians, this point cannot be overstated. The United States is being torn apart by racial and ethnic inequality, homophobia and somatophobia. The remedy for the malady is heads-on education to remove these· infectious and contagious· diseases from America's infrastructure. And the constitutional right of free speech is an important ally in this endeavor. It is the operative that oppressed minorities have historically used to combat unjust prejudice. It is the proven way to challenge and rectify wrongs hurled against prejudice. It is the proven way to challenge and rectify wrongs hurled against them by bigots in high places. Though hate mongering is a steep price paid for free speech, it is necessary for the function of a democratic society. Why so? Regulating free speech may censure the good along with the bad, or, as it often happens, only the good and not the bad; unregulated free speech, however, will lChancellor Raymond Orbach responding to why permission 'Y~.grantedtQ.well-known racist, Khallid Abdul Muhammad, to speak on the campus of the University of California at Riverside on Sunday, May 29, 1994. Muhammad's antisemitic and Holocaust denial rhetoric was received warmly by many in the audience. Curiously, he was shot by a former Nation ofIslam fellow traveler shortly after he left the building where he presented his...