The Review recently reported that Joy Karega is suing Oberlin over her dismissal, her case “claiming breach of contract and employment discrimination on the basis of race and gender” (“Karega Sues College, Claiming Discrimination,” The Oberlin Review, Nov. 16, 2018). She actually got fired for posting indisputably anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on Facebook. Does anyone think this constitutes discrimination against her?
Firing Karega reflected basic morality and logic. We know in principle that any institution is justified in firing someone who, even in their personal life, publicly endorses vulgar, racist ideas. Many of Karega’s defenders likely concede as much. For example, when yet another white person has a public racist outburst or meltdown, many on the political left identify them and call for the person to lose their job.
Some might construe Karega’s posts as being on a lesser scale than other racist acts and therefore relatively innocuous. But the principles behind her firing remain unchanged and paramount. For example, we agree that if Karega was sharing neo-Nazi white-supremacist website The Daily Stormer on Facebook, Oberlin would not only be right to remove her, but also within its rights to distance itself from her or any other professor promoting anti-Semitic beliefs. In principle, then, some social media posts are grounds for dismissal.
That her posts were anti-Semitic is without question (“Karega-Mason’s Facebook Posts Anti-Semitic,” The Oberlin Review, March 4, 2016). So to anyone who disagrees with Karega’s firing — particularly those evaluating her actions in terms of scale — does that mean you’re willing to overlook even a little anti-Semitism?
Similarly, though less important, is that Karega publicly promoting any conspiracy theories at all speaks to the value she places on serious scholarship and therefore her qualifications to teach Oberlin College students rhetoric and composition.