November 10, 2007

"When Mexicans come north as illegal immigrants, we call them wetbacks."

Said Donald Hindley. How hostile (or inattentive) a listener do you need to be to think that a man who has taught in the politics department at Brandeis University for decades was saying that "wetbacks" is an appropriate term?

Yet at least 2 of his students — it seems — complained to the chair of his department. The university decided that he had violated its anti-discrimination policy and ordered him to take sensitivity training and sent an assistant provost to monitor his class. Imagine that — a monitor sitting in the classroom!

(Why not — at most — record the classes? It's not like university students need a guardian there to spring into action.)

Hindley isn't taking it lying down:
Now, Hindley had circulated letters addressed to him by Provost Marty Krauss as well as the human resources office, creating what [department chair Steven L.] Burg called an “e-mail campaign” against the university’s decision... About 13 students, or a third of his class, staged a walkout to protest the professor’s treatment, according to the Justice, and the professor is also filing a formal appeal to the decision....

In a comment posted to an editorial on the Justice’s Web site titled “Prof. Hindley deserves better,” a former student wrote, “Through humor and through sarcasm Professor Hindley is able to keep learning exciting. He is a brilliant mind with years of teaching experience. Sometimes his sarcasm did seem on the edge, but at the end of the day, if you had been coming to class regularly, you knew where he was coming from.”
Good for the students for standing up for a teacher who respects the capacity of the students understand humor and sarcasm. How awful that the 2 students who complained had somehow come to believe that classroom expression is supposed to be so bland that doesn't even sound like the things they've been told wound them deeply. It's not hard to guess where they learned that they are entitled to a padded environment and to complain when they feel uncomfortable . Look how the university responded to them.

***

The linked article, at Inside Higher Ed, compares what happened at Brandeis to the incident "at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where a law professor was accused of making anti-Hmong comments, and the details he later provided placed those comments in a very different context, one contested by some who brought the complaints in the first place." Click on my tag "Kaplan story" to read more about what happened at Wisconsin, where students also staged an event, but not in support of the professor, in denunciation.

47 comments:

Richard Fagin said...

"the things they've been told wound them deeply"

There, Prof. Althouse, is the entire subject of post-civil rights movement "hate speech" in a succinct phrase. Not things that actually wound people deeply, but things they've been TOLD wound them deeply.

A Ford dealership in Georgetown, TX recently went through hell because one of its sales people sent an e-mail advertisement to a number of prospective customers touting air conditioned seats in some modesl, of SUV. The headline on the ad stated, "Tired of the wet backs?"

The sales rep was fired, the dealership did quite a bit of public groveling, and of course, LULAC was all over the incident in the manner of Al Sharpton when black people are involved.

Free speech is in jeopadry.

P. Rich said...

Speech control is insidious, and it's more about control than about speech per se. Rules for what is permissible are determined by who is in control. History provides many unsavory examples. None of them is laudatory.

Bob said...

Ah, well. Not one of my better moments, I guess. My apologies for the hurt feelings, please don't call Al Sharpton on me for mandatory sensitivity training, ok?

rhhardin said...

I assumed they got wet backs from crossing the river. Not that there's any water in the river, if you actually look. But anyway the implication is that they didn't use the border crossing bridge.

So far I don't see the offensiveness, but that's just my little folk etymology of it.

The next question is how to get interested in whether they're offended or not. Can you just decide to be offended, or does there have to be a reason?

Maybe it was spoken dismissively once. Isn't it dismissiveness that's offensive, and not the word?

And you can be dismissive back! What an opportunity for illegal Mexican writers!

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

So sorry [/sarcasm] to toss a wet blanket on all this. The Mexicans themselves call them wetbacks ('los mojados') and have even developed a verb for it, 'mojarse' -- to wetback oneself.

Upon their return to Mexico (most of them do), 'los mojados' are considered much better husband material than 'los flojos' ('the lazy ones') who did not light our for 'el otro lado' (the other side).

By the same token, 'Polack' is quite simply the term -- in Polish -- for a male Polish person.

I wish that before people got their panties in a wad about certain names they'd actually make a minimal effort to understand the origin thereof.

Should I, as a Connecticut native, get all torqued about being called a 'Nutmegger' just because the name was originally somewhat derogatory? 200 years ago numerous crooked traders from Connecticut carved wooden nutmegs because selling little pieces of butternut wood at nutmeg prices was really profitable.

200 years from now we'll still be calling 'em 'wetbacks.' Big deal.

Ann Althouse said...

Bob, I took the comment down (despite the irony). Please don't be discouraged about continuing to comment.

Bob said...

I remember reading in a baseball biography a pitcher's reaction to a bad outing, which he called The Frozen Iceball Theory, which I'll paraphrase:

Millions of years from now the Earth will be a frozen iceball hurtling through space, and by then it won't matter what sort of comment Bob made on Ann Althouse's blog on a Saturday in November, 2007.

*grins*

Ann Althouse said...

I don't, Bart. Nutmegger sounds dirty to me. So does Hoosier.

Kev said...

I wish that before people got their panties in a wad about certain names they'd actually make a minimal effort to understand the origin thereof.

I agree, but I also wish that said panties would remain in their unwadded state in the first place, and that people would remember that there is not a Constitutional right to not have one's feelings hurt, nor should there ever be.

When I was a kid, and other kids teased me (as kids often do), I would sometimes complain to Mom about it, and she would reply with the time-honored "momily" that went, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Political correctness has turned this all on its head, so that now, it's more like "If you hurt me with words, I'll break your bones with sticks and stones." The sticks and stones in question tend to come in the form of lawsuits and/or complaints to one's employer.

(And part of me thinks that it would be at least somewhat entertaining to see these differences settled with sticks and stones instead of lawsuits.)

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Oh, Ann, lighten up. What's dirty about a nick derived from "Who's there?" or perhaps "Who's yer pa?"

Besides, what else can you call somebody from Connecticut, which after all is an old Indian word meaning land of high taxes?

The old nutmeggers were crooks. We were also called Yankees, an anglicised form of what was basically the Dutch word for 'Cheesehead,' there being no white folks in Wisconsin at the time.

Australians take pride in being "from good convict stock." In Spanish the term 'sueco' (Swede) means no-so-bright. In Canada a Swede is a rutabaga.

This kind of stuff is pretty universal, of many centuries duration, and with a few notable exceptions, quite harmless.

I hope you haven't been hanging around PC academic environments too long ...

Peter Palladas said...

Surely that's only the ones who swim across the Rio Grande. That's what I was taught in school anyways.

no one said...

“When Mexicans come north as illegal immigrants, we call them wetbacks,” he told the Brandeis student newspaper, the Justice, in describing his comments. He says he wasn’t saying that’s what they should be called, but what many Americans do call them.

I don't think very many Americans call illegal immigrants from Mexico "wetbacks." I'm sure some do, but why would Hindley say "we call them wetbacks," implying that this is common usage?

Hindley was sloppy and the university overreacted in response. It's not much of a story from my point of view--both the university and Hindley look foolish.

Kirby Olson said...

What goes around comes around.

Now the people who have put these crazy limits on speech will end up suffering from same since they are the only ones left.

Of course, what they meant is that anyone who isn't a Democrat and very liberal can't say these things. But now that there is no longer anyone left in academia who doesn't belong to that group, the noose will naturally get tighter.

Until any word that any one says will be misconstrued as hateful speech. Perhaps all speech IS hateful, and people should just sit in classrooms quietly and think of all the injustices of the world. Or not even think. Just sit there, as in detention.

Zeb Quinn said...

Where I grew up calling them "wetbacks" was being kind. The bigots called them spics or greasers.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

I don't think very many Americans call illegal immigrants from Mexico "wetbacks."

For some reason, I doubt you live in a border state. Seriously, that was a very common epithet for decades in California at least, although it is heard less often in recent years.

moondancer said...

RE: we call them wetbacks...

Thats amusing, because when nitwits spew hate-filled language, we call them Republicans, right Ann?

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

Ann, as Connecticut has had the sobriquet "the nutmeg state" for a few hundred years, I can't imagine why it sounds dirty to you. For that matter, just about every other sports team in Indiana is known as the "Hoosiers," and it is the official state nickname.

no one said...

For some reason, I doubt you live in a border state.

I live in New Mexico.

jeff said...

"I don't think very many Americans call illegal immigrants from Mexico "wetbacks." I'm sure some do, but why would Hindley say "we call them wetbacks," implying that this is common usage? "

"I live in New Mexico."

You probably didn't know many people that voted for Nixon either. However, yeah it is common usage. I have heard the term for over 30 years. Always referred to derogatory and not to be used, but a comman phrase.

"Thats amusing, because when nitwits spew hate-filled language, we call them Republicans"
Been to some of the left wing pages yet? Know what they call Michelle Malken? Senator Leiberman? Justice Thomas?
But you call those who are spewing the hate-filled language Republicans? Strange.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

I live in New Mexico.

Really? And here I thought you were living in Wisconsin.

Ann Althouse said...

I said it sounds dirty.

Somewhere on the internet there is a list of words that sound dirty but aren't. Here. Kumquat!

PatCA said...

So if you utter a certain word, in context or not, the kangaroo court immediately revokes your academic freedom and dispatches a Party block captain to monitor your class.

If you allege Bush wrought 9/11, however, you are championed by your school and are able to bloviate ad nauseum at full pay to impressionable students.

So much for the First Amendment on Campus.

The good professor should not only go public with His Own private Cultural Revolution, he should call FIRE and sue the school and the students too.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

I was shocked not to find philatelist on that list!

Trumpit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trumpit said...

I think he should be made to attend Anita Hill's lectures on (Mexican) woman's issues. She a faculty member at Brandeis, I think. (Is it pc to call a professor a "member.")

Fitting that Clarence Thomas has ruled that students have no 1st amendment rights whatsoever. As a teacher turned student, he'll have to sit there quietly: no black or brown armbands, no placard stating, "I'm being punished for call a spade, a spade," no wet t-shirt contests. But, I think Thomas has ruled that students have a 2nd amendment right to bring a loaded Uzi to school, if I'm not mistaken. Is he in favor of trigger guards? Will have to wait for the seminal Supreme Ct. ruling on the issue. But don't put anything seminal or hairy on Judge Thomas' Coke can. He'll be disgusted and rule against the offending party.

Thanks Ann, for the that list of hilarious words that sound dirty, but aren't. I would add the word "thespian" to the list. Never call a suspected lesbian actress a thespian, she'll blow her top. That's assuming you can say she blows...

The Drill SGT said...

I agree with IR, Wetback is/was a common term when I was growing up in California to refer to illegal Mexican aliens. It was common for Hispanic American citizens to refer to illegals as wetbacks. For example, the now sainted Ceasar Chavez, the California United Farm Workers Union organizer, was strongly anti-wetback. He knew they lowered wages for his union farmworkers.

Blake said...

At least he didn't call them Sand Bellies.

As with other racial epithets, I hear them most from the group supposedly denigrated by them.

jeff said...

"Fitting that Clarence Thomas has ruled that students have no 1st amendment rights whatsoever."
Got a cite for that?

"But, I think Thomas has ruled that students have a 2nd amendment right to bring a loaded Uzi to school"
Got a cite for THAT one?

"if I'm not mistaken. Is he in favor of trigger guards?"

I think we all are in favor of trigger guards. Do you have any idea what a trigger guard is? Do you dislike a UZI cause they look icky?
Perhaps you think you are talking about trigger locks?

save_the_rustbelt said...

In the 1950s when there was a problem with illegals, President Eisenhower launched "Operation Wetback" to round up and deport the illegals.

(The common term wetback derived from swimming the Rio Grande.)

So if I write a history paper about Ike should I write "Operation [deleted]?"

Perhaps the professor should just stand in front of the class and read hi-hop lyrics, which apparently are completely politically correct.

Luckyoldson said...

The Secret Service revealed that three people were "ID'ed" when local Republican staffers saw a bumper sticker on the car we drove which said "No More Blood For Oil." Evidently, the free speech expressed on one bumper sticker is cause enough to eject three citizens from a presidential event. (Similarly, someone was ejected from Bush's Social Security privatization event in Arizona the same day simply for wearing a Democratic t-shirt.)

Luckyoldson said...

Jeffery and Nicole Rank were arrested and removed from a taxpayer-funded event featuring President Bush because their shirts read "Love America, Hate Bush" and "Regime Change Starts at Home."

The pair were arrested, detained and charged with trespassing.

Bob said...

A lot of "sound dirty" words are from a famous hoax speech that took place during a 1950's senate campaign in Florida between Claude Pepper and George Smathers:

Part of American political lore is the Smathers "redneck speech," which Smathers reportedly delivered to a poorly educated audience. The "speech" was never given; it was a hoax dreamed up by one reporter. Smathers did not say, as was reported in Time Magazine during the campaign: "Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy."

source: Wikipedia

Trumpit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trumpit said...

Jeff, you idiot,

In the "Bongs hits for Jesus" case, Thomas gave an argument from tradition to decide that students have no first amendment rights, because in the good old days, students could get rapped on the knuckles by the teacher for slight infractions. You haven't been paying much attention to the news lately. Too busy playing with your shotgun, and hurting little animals, are you?

You want a citation:
United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995) was the first United States Supreme Court case since the Great Depression to set limits to Congress's power under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

Alfonso Lopez Jr. carried a handgun and cartridges into his high school, Edison High, San Antonio, Texas. He was charged with violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, 18 U.S.C. § 922(q).

Lopez's legal defense held that the federal government had no authority to regulate firearms in school zones, and argued that the federal law under which Lopez was convicted was unconstitutional.

Clarence Thomas ruled with the 5-4 majority, guess which way?

Please refrain from talking to me again in such a self-righteous and rude manner. I don't like you gun-toting, right-wing stupid types in the least.

6:59 PM

jeff said...

Trumpit, you ignorant slut,

"decide that students have no first amendment rights"

No or limited? There is a difference.


"Too busy playing with your shotgun, and hurting little animals, are you?"
Don't own a shotgun, never hunted a day in my life. Your mind reading apparently is broken. Perhaps you should consider not doing that any more.

"Alfonso Lopez Jr. carried a handgun and cartridges into his high school, Edison High, San Antonio, Texas. He was charged with violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)."

And this relates to a UZI how, exactly?

"Clarence Thomas ruled with the 5-4 majority, guess which way?"

The correct way. Well, correct if you believe in the US Constitution. You apparently do not. Probably a ends justify the means person I would guess.


"Jeff, you idiot,"
"Please refrain from talking to me again in such a self-righteous and rude manner. I don't like you gun-toting, right-wing stupid types in the least."

BWHAHAHAHAHAHA. Usually it takes more than one post from you guys to reveal your inner hypocrite. Congrats on your efficency.

Why don't you cut and paste what you thought was self righteous and rude from my previous comment?

You either misunderstand or misrepresent the first ruling and declare Thomas says students have NO first admendment rights what so ever.
Then you clearly misrepresent the second ruling. See, dipshit, what they did was reign in congress from overstepping their bounds under the commerce clause. If a state wants to pass a no-gun law at a school they are completely free to do so.
I know, nuance. You kinda suck at that. Plus you take that ruling and turn it into "Thomas thinks students can carry UZI's to school, but cite a case that has NOTHING to do with that, and even granting you the UZI=handgun in your fevered little confiscating fascist mind, this case doesn't prove, or even imply any such thing.

Then of course you show your (additional) ignorance by cleverly mistaking a trigger guard for a trigger lock while you take another unwarranted shot at Thomas.

In other words, you are completely wrong on everything in your first post, and completely wrong in your second. Congratulations on retaking the "idiot" designation.

See. This could be construed as a "rude" response. Compare and contrast with my first one.

"I don't like you gun-toting, right-wing stupid types in the least."
See, I don't have any personal issues with you nanny-state, gun grabbing left-wing stupid types at all. I am merely amused by your self delusion that you are smarter than you actually are.

Oh, I don't think that word (self-righteous) means what you think it does.

I know a lot of this is my fault. I should have been more specific. Please list cites that pertain to your accusations in the first post. If your going to make these blanket statements, please back them up.

TMink said...

"Please refrain from talking to me again in such a self-righteous and rude manner."

Mirror mirror.

Trey

rcocean said...

The new term for "wetback" in California is "Democratic voter".

Which is why liberals love illegal immigration. In fact, I'm sure Teddy "the swimmer' Kennedy would love to have union with Mexico. 100 million new, poor Mexican voters. Harry Reid has wet dreams over it.

So does George Bush and the WSJ; union with Mexico would mean wages racing to bottom. Profits at an all time high. And cheap maids,nannies, and gardeners for everyone - who lives in Marin or Scarsdale.

jeff said...

Yeah, I don't really get that. Either the Democrats or the Republicans. Short term gains at what long term costs?

michilines said...

It's a pity that the good prof from a university of a particular persuation decided to use the term 'wetback.'

Being not only a native Texan, but also one who has lived out in West Texas, I can say with assurance that the word 'wetback' means something specific.

Sure all of the other terms used to demean over the years have lost their luster, if not their sting. For me, 'wetback' brings up a particular memory. My aunt's family were cotton farmers. They had a 'wetback.' On one visit to my cousins' house, they showed me the 'wetback's' home. It was out in the cotton field. It was a shack out in the field. It had a dirt floor and a straw mat.

For those of you who think that looking back on the origins of words is informative, you know in your heart that you are racist. For those of you who drag up Cesar Chavez, you know you are racist. For those of you who cry, lord jesus for the right to insult anyone anywhere any time, you are racist.

I manage, and have for 45 long years, to live my life without pitting one group against another. I have risked my job through pointing out the racism of others.

I remember seeing Althouse's audience numbers. You white types just can't deal with having your racism pointed out to you. And if it is in your face, you cry all the more.

The solution to the belly-aching at the front of this thread? Admit you are a racist. Then at least you are being honest.

That goes for you, too Ann.

From Inwood said...

It's those jackal bins again!

PC recommended way of teaching History:

"People were discriminated against in many ways in this country including name calling, but I, your PC prof, can't tell you what these names are, nor can I use texts which use these names."

jeff said...

michilines clearly didnt bother reading Ann's post or most of the responses.

"For those of you who think that looking back on the origins of words is informative, you know in your heart that you are racist."

How so? Be specific. Because I said so isnt a good answer.

"For those of you who drag up Cesar Chavez, you know you are racist."
How so? Again, be specific.

"For those of you who cry, lord jesus for the right to insult anyone anywhere any time, you are racist."
Who, exactly, has said anything approaching this? You're getting straw all over this thread.

"You white types just can't deal with having your racism pointed out to you."
What in the hell are you talking about? Are you in the group that claims, if you are white, you are a racist?

I reread the original post. Point out what part makes Ann a racist.

Personally, I think you're a nut. Or is that racist?

Fen said...

michilines: I manage, and have for 45 long years, to live my life without pitting one group against another. I have risked my job through pointing out the racism of others.... You white types just can't deal with-

Okay, now this is what we call I-R-O-N-Y

Its even more amusing when you consider michilines doesn't even see it.

Watch, next he'll call me a redneck, while lecturing me on bigotry...

..or maybe its a parody of a liberal Democrat

jeff said...

heh. I completely missed that one. I may have hit my limit in reading what some of these folks consider logic today.

Ann Althouse said...

If you define the term broadly, everyone is a racist. So what's the point? It's like saying we're all sinners.

jeff said...

eh, Ann. You know how all those nutians are.

michilines said...

If you define the term broadly,

In adding a conditional to your statement, you go beyond what I said. I was very specific in my example from upthread.

jeff, I read the post and read the thread.

Perhaps I can explain through an example. People always think that their swear words are worse that the swear words of other languages. I've had students run around calling people pendejo. They think it's funny. Until I explain that it is a fighting word. The gringos here saying that it is a matter of fact way of refering to the manner of certain people arriving in this country are doing much the same thing.

Pitting one group against another is a well wron tactic. 'But a Mexican-American had a problem with the Mexican immigrants' is a simple way to wash ones white hands of any shame in calling someone a 'wetback'. It's the 'I have a black friend' argument.

The people who upthread whine about being PC are the ones who want to be able to say anything they want. Maybe you should re-read the thread and look for all the PC whining.

fen, sweetie, the idea that you think my 'white types' remark is irony smashes the whole concept. And funny thing is, I won't call you anything.

everyone is a racist.

Actually no. I know people who aren't. I know people who are. Having lived in Texas almost all of my life, I can spot them rather quickly. They are up-front about it. None of the squirming of you or your commenters.

So what's the point?

You posted this in part because you are a racist -- or fairly stupid.

It's like saying we're all sinners.

Not really.

eh, Ann. You know how all those nutians are.

sigh

Perhaps fen sighs with me: name calling, and silly name calling at that.

Historyscoper said...

The age-old pesky U.S.-Mexico border problem has taxed the resources of both countries, led to long lists of injustices, and appears to be heading only for worse troubles in the future. Guess what? The border problem can never be solved. Why? Because the border IS the problem! It's time for a paradigm change.

Never fear, a satisfying, comprehensive solution is within reach: the Megamerge Dissolution Solution. Simply dissolve the border along with the failed Mexican government, and megamerge the two countries under U.S. law, with mass free 2-way migration eventually equalizing the development and opportunities permanently, with justice and without racism, and without threatening U.S. sovereignty or basic principles.

To read more, Google "Megamerge Dissolution Solution".