The story began when a group of students, who described themselves as ‘non-black allies’ of their black peers, wrote to Klein asking for him to effectively cancel the final exams for black students.
They continued: ‘We believe that remaining neutral in times of injustice brings power to the oppressor and therefore staying silent is not an option.’
Yes, it’s the white liberals taking it upon themselves to speak for black people again. Which, strangely, isn’t considered racist…
Klein wrote back and declined their request, composing an email that some students felt was mocking them.
Oh, it was. And more importantly, schooling them. Which is, after all, what he’s paid for, isn’t it?
‘Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,’ he wrote.
‘Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only?
‘Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian? What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half?’
Klein asked the students whether any of them – black or otherwise – were from Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed by police on May 25, sparking a wave of protests.
‘I assume that they probably are especially devastated as well,’ he wrote.
‘I am thinking that a white student from there might be possibly even more devastated by this, especially because some might think that they’re racist even if they are not.‘
Ouch! And it continues.
Klein asked how he was expected to implement the ‘no-harm’ exam, given the course was solely graded on the final exam.
And he ended with a quote from Martin Luther King.
‘One last thing strikes me: Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the “color of their skin,”‘ he wrote.
‘Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK’s admonition? Thanks, G. Klein.’
Double ouch! And just in case, he followed it up to ensure that no-one else from his class got any such ridiculous and demeaning ideas:
In a separate email to his entire class, Klein said that outside events, including personal hardship, do not necessarily relieve students of their responsibilities.
He gave the example of his daughter, who suffered a severe illness and lost close friends to suicide during her time at UCLA, but still completed course work.
And by now, if you are shaking your head and saying ‘Only in America, it can’t happen here’ may I remind you that the estimable David Thompson’s blog can swiftly disabuse you of that notion?