Friday, March 2, 2007

A Student Speaks Out

Here's a fascinating account of the ongoing brouhaha at the University of Wisconsin's Law School. This comes from a student who was in Prof. Kaplan's class at the time he made his controversial remarks (hat tip: Ann Althouse, who is blogging the hell out of this today):
I am in the Legal Process class that is the subject of the discussion and was there that day. No one was recording it or even taking notes, probably, because the class has such an informal quality.

It is being suggested by the quotes going around that Professor Kaplan's remarks were some comment about the essential worth of a Hmong man, as in "All Hmong men are good at is killing," meant that it is just in their inherent nature to kill and be good at it. They are uncivilized and that is all they are good for. This is a misrepresentation of the comments. I believe that the clear thrust of his comments was that all these immigrants who lived their whole life in the mountains of Laos are now transplanted here. There, all the men knew was killing. Here, the society is different. Kaplan pointed out the difficulties that Hmong men have had at integrating here because the kind of society here is different than the hunting society that existed in their homeland. He also pointed out how well Hmong women have intergrated because the skills that they came to this county with translate here. That is, they are weavers and artisans, and they can use that skill here while the Hmong men's skills are simply no good here. The context of the discussion was basically a critique of how the federal and state governments have dropped the ball in the way that they have handled the Hmong. Kaplan was very critical of the fact that the government should have easily forseen the problem and set up programs to help the immigrants integrate.

Also the suggestion that he made a conclusory statement that all young Hmong men turn to gangs is an incredible simplification. First of all he said that all second generation immigrant groups turn to crime as a way to break into an economy that is not integrating them. He illustrated with examples of other cultural groups, most notably that of Jewish immigrants.

He did not say that Hmong men rape their wives and then get upset that they have paid too much for them. During a discussion about legal formalism he illustrated how black letter law can be more open to interpretation than one might think, once cultural difference are factored in by using the example of a Hmong man who agrees with a woman's father to pay a dowry in exchange for a bride. Then he wants to be intimate with his wife. She says no, he does it anyway because in his mind this is a marriage and this is just the way things work. She claims she was raped. He asked how many of us in the class would agree, and I believe everyone raised their hand. He then suggested that the husband and the father might disagree, and he did say that the man thought he paid to much, which was a joke, and many people laughed.

I apologize that I can't put quotes around the things that he said, but it has been a while and I don't want to misquote him. Many of us in the class are upset about the way this is all happening, the way that his statements are being interpreted. I feel very bad for the students who feel offended, and I know that Kaplan does too. I decided not to attend the meeting last night when I read that some students from the class would give their opinions. When these comments first came out I wrote to Dean Davis and expressed that I did not agree with the characterization of those comments. When I was not invited to give my opinions I knew that only one kind of comment was going to be appreciated at last night's forum. I want my Hmong classmates to come back to class, and I am sorry that they are hurt, but I think that it is important to be a voice against " P.C." and a voice for real equality and critical thinking about the issue of race.
This student deserves praise for his honesty; unlike KaShia Moua, he didn't want to give the impression that the statements were exact quotes. As Althouse has observed, "the repetition of the purported quotations from the email is giving them the aura of reality."

Initial media reports did not mention if Miss Moua was even in the class at the time. The Badger Herald reported today that she was, although yesterday, said The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she was not, and that "she compiled the remarks from others." My sources say that the MJS is right. The plot thickens.

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