In his March 13 column, “America, a nation of the woke and wary,” George F. Will continued his lifelong diatribe against the left and liberalism.
Mr. Will and the author he quoted bemoan that when workplace sexual harassment became punishable because of emotional distress, not just lost wages, there was “a dramatic increase in the number of harassment charges filed.” Of course. Previously, there was no legal punishment for emotional distress, so there was no point in filing charges for it. They also bemoaned that the new regulation weakened “support for free expression concerning race or sex.” Shouldn’t people at work be doing their jobs instead of “freely expressing” their opinions of race and sex when those opinions discriminate against co-workers?
Mr. Will also complained that, as he sees it, “there is an entitlement to pass through life without emotional distress occasioned by abraded sensitivities.” Perhaps Mr. Will should save his scolding for those governors trying to prevent schools from teaching any topic that would make anyone (i.e., White) feel “discomfort.”
Kathie Sowell, Vienna
George F. Will noted that liberals want to ban comments in schools that might be perceived as racist because such comments may make some people of color feel uncomfortable. I note that many conservatives want to ban any discussion in schools of the wrongs of slavery because such comments make some White people uncomfortable. Why did Mr. Will take note only of the former — liberals are really trying, perhaps with too much zeal, to protect a group that has often been subjected to harassment and ridicule because of race — and ignore the latter? Conservatives are trying to maintain a version of history that, by ignoring and whitewashing the racist past of this country, encourages the type of harassment that the liberals are trying to stop.
Gerald Vogel, Germantown
George F. Will described how the legal concept of a hostile work environment is devouring free speech by labeling mild statements about race or sex as illegal discriminatory harassment merely because they add up over time to a “hostile environment.”
This is not limited to the workplace. It is even worse on campus. Under colleges’ “hostile learning environment” harassment codes, students and campus newspapers have been charged with racial or sexual harassment for expressing commonplace views about racial or sexual subjects, such as criticizing affirmative action, feminism, sexual harassment regulations or same-sex marriage. But punishing commonplace views because they are offensive to listeners defeats the whole purpose of free speech, which is precisely to protect unpopular or controversial views from suppression. So judges sometimes strike down college harassment codes.
Academic freedom allows discussion of unpleasant truths. As a former leader of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts noted, “the essence of being educated is being offended daily.”
Hans Bader, Arlington