Let’s Have a National Conversation About Race–So We Can Figure Out Whom to Fire

Eugene Volokh, Washington Post, December 18, 2014

Lisa Worf (WFAE, Charlotte) writes about the firing of Charlotte, N.C., fire investigator Crystal Eschert:

Eschert is white. She referenced reports of another police shooting near Ferguson that said a white person was the victim. She wrote on her personal Facebook page:

Where is Obama? Where is Holder? Where is Al Sharpton? Where are Trayvon Martin’s parents? Where are all the white guy supporters? So WHY is everyone MAKING it a racial issue?!? So tired of hearing it’s a racial thing. If you are a thug and worthless to society, it’s not race–You’re just a waste no matter what religion, race or sex you are!

Eschert did not identify herself as a Charlotte Fire Department employee, but she was fired in September after someone emailed the post to city officials.

[UPDATE: Eschert also posted a message quoted from a Web site called “Law Enforcement Today”: “Want to know where racial tension and cultural divide comes from? 794 law enforcement officers have fallen in the Line of Duty since B.H. Obama took office, with no special recognition from the White House. A man robs a convenience store and assaults a cop; the White House sends three representatives to his memorial service.”]


Eschert is considering suing. The First Amendment rules related to government firing of employees for their speech are vague, though I think that on balance Eschert is likely to prevail.

Apropos of this and the earlier post Marquette University tells employees: “Opposition to same-sex marriage” could be “unlawful harassment,” here are some related thoughts I posted back in 2010. They stem from President Obama’s call for people to talk about race around “water coolers,” something that is of course even more perilous than talking to your friends on your own Facebook page. But the broader point that some government leaders call for a national conversation about race while other government policies make talk about race extremely perilous strikes me as similar.

* * *

Yesterday [i.e., back in 2010] I heard about President Obama’s National Urban League speech on NPR, and one particular item struck me. (I’m sure it’s not the most important item, but it’s just the one about which I have something to say.)

We should all make more of an effort to discuss with one another, in a truthful and mature and responsible way, the divides that still exist–the discrimination that’s still out there, the prejudices that still hold us back–a discussion that needs to take place not on cable TV, not just through a bunch of academic symposia or fancy commissions or panels, not through political posturing, but around kitchen tables, and water coolers, and church basements, and in our schools, and with our kids all across the country.

I certainly agree that it would be good for people to discuss racial issues in a truthful, mature, and responsible way. But I’m pretty sure that discussing such issues around “water coolers” is pretty dangerous advice, at least if one really wants a discussion in which people aren’t afraid to air their views.

1. To begin with, any arguments that some might see as racist could lead to complaints and even lawsuits about a supposedly “racially hostile work environment”; and while such lawsuits are hard for plaintiffs to win, no employer wants to have to fight them, and no employee should want to have his speech be the subject of such suits.


When the legal standard is as vague as that the speech, together with other statements by other people at other times, is “severe or pervasive” enough to create a “hostile, abusive, or offensive work environment” for the plaintiff and a reasonable person based on race, the cautious employer is likely to want its employees to likewise be very cautious in this field. Alan says around the water cooler that the underrepresentation of blacks in some job category stems from white racism. Betty responds–perhaps thoughtfully, or perhaps out of anger at what she sees as Alan’s exaggerations or overgeneralizations–that the real reasons might be failings in black American culture, or even genetic differences.


2. Moreover, statements that could be seen as involving race-based generalizations could be later introduced as evidence of racial animus in a discriminatory discharge/demotion/failure to hire/failure to promote case, if the speaker has a role in the hiring process. Recall the Alan-Betty exchange: When Alan is later discharged, and sues for race discrimination, he argues that Betty had some role in the discharge decision, and that Betty’s statement is evidence that she likely discriminated against him based on race.

Again, it’s not clear that such a statement would lead to a victory in court; the jury might not find it probative enough, and in any case it might in some situations be seen as insufficient evidence under the “stray remarks” doctrine. But the risk is sufficient, I think, that many an employer will immediately discipline Betty for her statement, and that at the very least people like Betty would be reluctant to express their true views, either at work or elsewhere.


3. Finally, this isn’t just a matter of liability: Allegedly racist comments can yield bad publicity for the employer, can waste a huge amount of employer time and energy on internal investigation and discussion, and can cause morale problems that interfere with productivity. Even without the risk of litigation, many people have long been cautious about talking about matters that their listeners might feel strongly about a deep and personal level–race, religion, politics, sexuality, and more. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the risk of vast liability has been an important factor in dramatically increasing the cost of expressing one’s candid views about race (especially at work), and in deterring people from expressing those views.

4. What strikes me as most interesting about this phenomenon–other than the practical unsoundness of President Obama’s suggestion–is that the very fight against discrimination and prejudice that the President is trying to promote in his statement has made it much harder to have candid discussions about race. We see the same happening in some measure as to candid discussions about sexual orientation. (The early phases of the gay rights movement also made it socially easier to have such candid discussions, but as sexual orientation discrimination law is beginning to follow the path of racial discrimination law, such discussions are becoming more professionally and legally perilous.) That might be an inevitable and acceptable consequence of that fight. But I don’t think that we can ignore it, and suggest that more discussion–at least around the water cooler–is going to help solve the problem.


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  • John Ambrose

    Liberals will whine and moan that conservatives are just being paranoid and that no one is trying to restrict free speech. But while the Left in this country may not be able to use “hate speech” laws to suppress unpopular opinions, they have found an effective work-around. If you say something they disagree with, they run straight to your employer and try to get you fired.
    So basically anyone who has to work for a living doesn’t enjoy freedom of speech.

    • David Ashton

      “No platform!” for patriotism, family values, DWEM literature…

  • This seems to insinuate that the left is in a win-win scenario. Either people don’t talk about race around the water cooler, and the left can kvetch about cowardice, or people do, and the left’s favorite ambulance chaser lawyers can bilk the Federal government for exorbitant billable hour rates.

  • E_Pluribus_Pluribus

    Barack Obama: “a discussion that needs to take place not on cable TV, not just through a bunch of academic symposia”


    Good luck with “academic symposia.” In 2014 America, academia is the LAST place one can have a “conversation about race.” Jared Taylor interviewing Nicholas Wade, retired science reporter and editor for the New York Times and author of A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History (2014):

    JARED TAYLOR: Would it not be correct to say that . . . when it comes to the biological basis of population differences — or even individual differences — that the Western mind is relatively closed? . . .

    NICHOLAS WADE: “I think this is a parochial problem of the academic left . . . They’re very fearful of each other . . . So if you step out of line just a little — particularly on this subject — if you write anything that doesn’t accord with the current dogma about the nature of race — you’ll be branded as a ‘scientific racist’ . . . you’ll be set upon as a racist and you’re career will be destroyed.

    “So the whole of the academic left is sort of hoist on its on petard. It’s sort of captured by this monster it’s created . . . which cannot brook criticism or dissenting thought. It’s very sad . . . It has to change some day . . . the sooner the better.”

  • JackKrak

    The same people who control the networks, the movie studios, the editorial desks, the classrooms, the admissions boards, the publishing houses and basically every microphone and pulpit out there somehow can’t get a “conversation” started?

    Sure, whatever.

    • bilderbuster

      In Germany it was recognized that those people weren’t Germans and had no business holding those types of positions in the first place.

      • a1781054

        Remove them from your soil and they will get the entire world after you though.

  • John Smith

    They don’t want a dialogue on race.

    They want a monologue on race with whites being lectured…by non-whites…about how we are 100% guilty for every problem, issue, pathology that afflicts every non-white.

  • MekongDelta69

    “Eschert is considering suing.”


    Don’t ‘consider.’ Just SUE.

  • David Ashton

    You are lucky to have some constitutional protection of free speech in the USA. In Britain, “offense” is sometimes enough to call in the Thought Police. And there is no limit to insanity – such as the teacher who refused to take her class to see “Romeo and Juliet” because it was “blatantly heterosexual”.

  • Obama said:

    We should all make more of an effort to discuss with one another, in a truthful and mature and responsible way

    I respond:

    If that’s what he wants, mature racial dialogue, the AR Home Office is in Northern Virginia, not far from the White House. Either he can go to AR, or he could have Jared Taylor go to the White House.

    • kikz2

      yeah, can you envision another ‘beer’ summit with Jared there :)?

  • AmericanCitizen

    If whites wanted to hold an open discussion on race, I have a few questions to propose we ask. For starters, I would like inner city blacks to explain how ridiculing education, reading, hard work and traditional values has worked in their favor. I would like blacks to tell me how their neighborhoods would improve if there was no police department. I’m also curious as to why today’s blacks, with almost no concept of history or the growth of Western Civilization, still feel that the abolished institution of slavery has affected them 149 years later, and in what ways (specific, not general).

    There are a lot more questions, but if asked these questions would prove that the Liberals and the minorities are the ones who are truly “a nation of cowards” about race and what it is doing to this nation.

    • Sick of it

      “I would like inner city blacks to explain how ridiculing education,
      reading, hard work and traditional values has worked in their favor.”

      All of the above are currently taking place with the white youth. Make sure your kids don’t buy into it.

      • joanofamerica

        but our kids don’t keep it. they whine and some fall but they grow out of it by the time the second kid pops out and get a job (while they still can), by thirty all they want to do is go to college.

        • joanofamerica

          i don’t understand why though, are regret and betterment white traits?

    • bilderbuster

      Lets axe them why they’re so prone to violence and how come they fail at everything when they’re compared to the other races too.

  • TruthBeTold

    Said it many times here and other places.

    When I’m around blacks, I keep my mouth shut. If spoken to I respond politely with as few words as possible. Then I extricate myself.

    Being around blacks means a target on your back.

    • Bobbala

      There are a few that can stand the scrutiny of being judged on the content of their character. It’s just that giving them the opportunity is like walking in a minefield. The freedom to discard them would give those few a chance to be accepted on their own merit.

      And can you really blame the vast majority for being naggers? You have to take them all. Why should any bother to “act white”? It’s all downside.

      • TruthBeTold

        I always wonder what I would do if I was told I had to be involved in a diversity training session. Would I refuse to participate or would I go and speak my mind; ie having the dialog on race they tell us we need to have.

        I strongly suspect that if I went to such a meeting and spoke my mind, even IF I was told nothing was off limits or that I wouldn’t be punished for being honest, that I would be targeted and crucified later.

        So what to do? Go and keep quiet? Go, speak out and get fired later? Refuse to go with or without giving a reason?

        If I’m ever asked, told, or forced to go, I will be sure to get the ground rules in writing and if I go, I will be recording the proceedings.

    • ElComadreja

      Around blacks never relax.

  • Steve_in_Vermont

    You cannot talk about race (publicly) without first checking to make sure your comments are considered politically (and racially) correct. To do otherwise is to be labeled a “racist” and (can I say black balled? No?) ostracized (by blacks). Whites are having discussions all the time, and saying things that could get them in trouble, so they speak softly after checking their surroundings. Welcome to the PC world.

  • connorhus

    Who want’s a discussion on race? I sure don’t. What I want is a discussion on when the world is going to figure out that the US has been spending trillions of dollars on social engineering that it can never repay. Once that balloon pops then we will have a discussion alright, when the government can no longer fund thought police departments, equal rights commissions and float education loans for everybody. Once the playing field is level, well then there will be a discussion and whether the liberals and race baiters want to listen or not will matter not one bit then.

    • Anglokraut

      I’m sure the MLK monument would go for a few thousand dollars at a fire sale.

  • dd121

    I think we all know that the left really doesn’t want a discussion about race and if you attempt to have one, you may be professionally murdered.

  • Bobbala

    Discrimination is the liberty to make your own decisions with no explanation required. As long as it is illegal, so is freedom.

    That would require the radical requirement that politically protected groups again be judged on the content of their character.

  • Da Troof

    “Where is Obama? Where is Holder? Where is Al Sharpton? Where are Trayvon Martin’s parents? Where are all the white guy supporters? So WHY is everyone MAKING it a racial issue?!? So tired of hearing it’s a racial thing. If you are a thug and worthless to society, it’s not race–You’re just a waste no matter what religion, race or sex you are!”

    ^ Racist hate speech in the year 2014.

  • shawnmer

    I simply must give my enemy his due: As ruthless strategy, this is sheer genius!

    We’re “racist” if we decline to have their “conversation. ” And they will professionally and reputationally lynch you as “racist” the second you have any contribution to their “conversation” they don’t like!!

    And after I’m done marveling at the sheer audacity of it, I despair. Because I see so little inclination for pretty much ANY private or govt employer to stand by their employees under a cry of “racism. ” we are literally being slow – bled to death.

  • JohnEngelman

    I am pleased that this article appeared in The Washington Post. I hope those responsible for putting it there keep their jobs with The Washington Post, and that Eugene Volokh keeps his position with the UCLA School of Law.

    The Dialogue on Race reminds me of the One Hundred Flowers Campaign in Communist China. The Communist government encouraged people to criticize the government. Those who did were later on arrested.

    • LHathaway

      You reminded me of the ‘thousand points of light’. They must be snuffed out! I guess.

    • Ella

      In the States, we will be “fired” with no benefits. Can you actually receive welfare benefits if you have a retirement / 401K account? Curious……..

    • BulgAryan

      Let a thousand flowers bloom is a common misquotation of Chairman Mao Zedong’s “Let a hundred flowers blossom”. This slogan was used during the period of approximately six weeks in the summer of 1957 when the Chinese intelligentsia were invited to criticize the political system then obtaining in Communist China.

      The full quotation, taken from a speech of Mao’s in Peking in February 1957, is:

      “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”

      It is sometimes suggested that the initiative was a deliberate attempt to flush out dissidents by encouraging them to show themselves as critical of the regime. Whether or not it was a deliberate trap isn’t clear but it is the case that many of those who put forward views that were unwelcome to Mao were executed.

  • JohnEngelman

    The comments to this essay on The Washington Post resemble comments here on American Renaissance. That is frequently the way it is when an article on racial matters appears in the mainstream media. This is a hopeful sign. I hope that none of those of us participating in this small part of the dialogue on race that needs to happen lose our jobs.

    • Sheik Yerbouti

      Oh there is no “happen” to it. There is an absolute effort to drive people out of solvency for having untoward political opinions. While it can’t be done “legally”, all manner of slimy tactics are used to go after people’s livelihoods, something that used to cause great shame in the US.

      And who is it that seems to employ this tactic as a first and often primary measure?

  • John

    I’ve solved this “problem” very easily. I just don’t talk to anyone but whites unless it’s absolutely unavoidable.

    • John Smith

      Some of them may be progs and they channel minorities’ “indignation” for them, often more vehemently than they do themselves.

  • humura

    When Obama and (before him Clinton) call for a dialogue on race, beware! It is similar to the era when Mao in China proposed to let a thousand flowers bloom, everyone could express all kinds of views. But when the Communists heard the views of the people, the Party quickly cracked down and eliminated the views, and often the people who enunciated them. The Democrats and liberal Republicans want no dialogue, no criticism of their policies. They simply want to lecture to others on how their policies, no matter how failed, are correct.

    • G-Man

      Not that it changes your point, but just a side note, the actual quote was something like “let a hundred flowers bloom” or “let a hundred blossoms flower”…not 1000.

      • humura

        You are correct. Sorry, my memory was a bit off. Of course, Mao wanted only one flower to bloom, that of the CCP. The other 99 were cut down.

  • LHathaway

    “any arguments that some might see as racist could lead to complaints and even lawsuits about a supposedly “racially hostile work environment”‘

    What a joke. That is the very Purpose of sensitivity training. To create a hostile work environment.

  • eldoradocreekskipper

    Remove the inquisitors from power. Then you will have nothing to fear and may speak honestly.

  • MBlanc46

    We have an honest conversation about race here on AmRen and the elites would shut us down in a heartbeat if they thought they could get away with it.

  • lily-white

    When the mulatto messiah or his administration refers to “a discussion on race”,
    you had better understand that by even accepting this “challenge”, you are
    accepting another never ending war… a “war
    on racism”… and just like all other made up wars, it is political and never
    ending… A war that’s never meant to be “won”…
    Furthermore, once you understand that his party is the “all inclusive party of victimhood”,
    you’ll start to see that you are wasting your time even participating is such a
    “discussion”… Whites already know about living with minorities… The top 1% of
    whites live in gated communities while the rest of us live with the benefits of
    multiculturalism… I fully expect this “discussion on race” to be a mainstay
    in amerikan politics from now on…

  • bilderbuster

    This whole “national conversation on race” is a load of rubbish and both parties know it.
    They know the majority of the nation has always opposed the Marxist “civil rights movement”, AA, quotas and all of the other nonsense of the Minorities and that’s why we’ve never been allowed to vote on any of it.

  • Yves Vannes

    If you look up Lawrence Auster`s old site, View From The Right, he has a long article on this subject which included a lot of input from readers and their own experiences in how they were targeted for expressing an opinion that was contra the progressive gospel on race and equality.

    • LHathaway

      I’d read that in one year in Northern California alone over 200 people had been fired from their job for what they said or what they believe. Perhaps those who run the site, ‘resisting defamation’ are the ones who came up with that stat?

      The popular consensus is that racism was defeated in World War II and that fascism was finally defeated with McCarthy. This is when they began.

  • LHathaway

    “Let’s have a national conversation about race – so we can figure out who to fire”


  • WR_the_realist

    No one ever frets about creating a hostile work environment for whites, conservatives, or Christians.

    • ElComadreja

      The hostile work environment created by mestizo and indio trash is the real reason there are hardly any whites left in certain occupations not the canard that white Americans “won’t do the jobs”.

  • kikz2
  • ElComadreja

    To blacks and their liberal enablers a “conversation about race” consists of blacks screaming about “racism”, demanding money and blaming whitey for the fact that they got the short end of the evolutionary stick while whitey nods his head in agreement, gives them more money and flagellates himself in penance for his “sins”.

  • ElComadreja

    The last thing blacks want to hear is the truth.

  • The objective of Obama’s statements is NEVER what is couched in the larger argument. He will lie when the truth suffices, and no matter what he discusses, a racial undertow pulls at it. His objective/perspective, is for whites to listen and concede. Whites are not entitled to an opinion or Constitutional Rights – if Obama had his way and made the Constitution a document of government MUST DO articles. Obama is damaged goods that arose from his paternity, his family, and other associates. They were all race obssessed Commies. He saw his father once his entire life – age 11ish. A boy will blame himself for his father abandoning him, OR… he will blame something, anything, rather than face reality – his father did not care about him. Obama shares that damage with millions of black children. Whitey must be punished to assuage his guilt and enact vengence for his father’s treatment – the racism that Obama believes drove his father away and prevented his father from loving him. Rage exists within him on racial matters. Frank Davis explained WHY to Obama. Rev Wright explained HOW and reenforced his beliefs.

  • Usually Much Calmer

    Libertarians will join the fold now. Drop by drop, a bucket is filled.

    Thank you to everyone who subscribed to AmRen when it was a magazine, thank you to everyone who posts here, thank you to everyone who has gone to a conference, thank you to everyone who has written for AmRen, and thank you to everyone who has sent Jared Taylor a check. Nice work.

  • Jeff Traube

    Obama is a racist. Look at his support of Prof Gates in Cambridge, Trayvon Martin (my son) and Mike Brown. He supports amnesty due to hostility to Europeans. Perhaps someone should have a talk with him.

    • Mary

      Automatic support for non-Whites in any given situation. I can’t recall a single exception.

  • nexus974

    Welcome to 21st century America.

  • FozzieT

    Jared Taylor and AmRen host the most honest conversation on race each year at the Montgomery Bell Inn and Conference Center.

  • CharlotteLady

    I personally found her comments to be callously judgmental and discriminatory. But the constitution guarantees Crystal the “right to free speech” and, as such, she can post any opinion she wishes, whether some find it offensive or not.

    However, there is nothing in the constitution that guarantees her the “right to a job”. In this instance, as a public safety representative, her employer apparently felt that her judgmental comments were not in line with their department’s policies — and compromised her ability to be perceived as impartial and non-discriminatory in carrying out her duties.

    Apart from discrimination based on age, sex, race or religion, in an “employment-at-will” state the employer has a legal right to dismiss an employee for any reason — or for no reason at all.

    People need to realize that there is no such thing as “private” on the internet and that our right to free speech does not protect from the ramifications of exercising that right.