Expelling Jersey girl for racist rant was wrong, free-speech advocates say
MARLTON — Notable civil liberties advocates, including a former executive director of the ACLU, think the University of Alabama missed out on a "teachable moment" by suspending South Jersey's Harley Barber over a vulgar video.
In an open letter issued by the New York Civil Rights Commission obtained by NJ.com, former ACLU executive director Ira Glasser said that the "impulse to punish" Harley Barber is "understandable as an emotional reaction."
However, they add, freedom of speech means that it can't be banned from public spaces such as the university even if it is considered offensive.
The famed free-speech defenders, however, note in their letter that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was considered offensive in his day. Banning racist speech today could someday lead to a ban on speech others believe to be progressive, they warn.
The letter was also signed by Norman Siegel, former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Michael Meyers, the president and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and former executive committee member of ACLU.
Barber posted two videos on an Instagram account in which she uses the "N-word" numerous times. In one video, she talks about pretending to like African-Americans. In a other video, Barber says she is from New Jersey and she can used the slur as many times as she wants even if it Martin Luther King Day.
She also identified herself as a member of the Alpha Pi sorority, which kicked her out after the videos went viral and hit the news.
University of Alabama president Stuart Bell sent a message via Twitter saying that Barber was "no longer enrolled here."
Barber told the New York Post she is feels "so, so bad and I am so sorry.":
Barber's estranged mother, Jill Barbera, told NJ.com she is not consoling her daughter and is in agreement with her expulsion. Barbera, whose last name is spelled differently from her daughter's, said her daughter hasn't lived in her home for just over a year because of constant arguing.
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