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May 28, 2014

J.B. Stoner, Huey Newton would not be welcome

Ada —

   A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, universities used to allow folks of opposite and very unpopular opinions the opportunity to speak to their students. Even stranger by today’s standards, no one protested or got upset about it. We knew little of political correctness back then. Sensitivity was not high on our social agenda.

 We, i.e. college students of that innocent era, pretended to take these sessions seriously, but in hindsight they were really just a form of high entertainment.

College students today take them very seriously indeed if protestations by Rutgers University students against former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaking to them are any indication. Upon becoming aware of the conflict, Rice decided against appearing.

According to latimes.com, similar issues arose for such notables as Eric Holder, James Franco, Meg Whitman, Ben Stein and Dustin Lance Black.

It isn’t likely J.B. Stoner and Huey Newton would have been acceptable by today’s standards, but they both spoke to students at the university I attended in Georgia in the early 1970s. To be sure, neither addressed a commencement crowd and that would probably have made a difference. Still, it is difficult to imagine significant protests not exploding at the thought of either being given a university platform in 2014.

Stoner was a segregationist and founder of the National States’ Rights Party, according to Wikipedia. He once said “being a Jew (should) be punishable by death,” and described Hitler as too moderate. His opinion of African Americans was equally reprehensible.

On stage before us stood Stoner and several burly men with bulges beneath their suit coats, an indication they were packing pistols. The crowd was unruly, jeering on occasion, but for all intents and purposes, attentive. At one point, a white friend of mine stood up with a black girl I had never seen before, put his arm around her and told Stoner, “My name is Jeremiah Dershowitz and this is my wife Suzy! 

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