Penn State Professor Juxtaposes KKK with Voter ID Laws

A Penn State film professor has ignited a campus controversy by tying voter ID laws to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). This, despite the fact that a majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans support voter ID laws to stop illegal voting from jeopardizing the integrity of U.S. elections.

Nationally, 70% of Americans support voter ID laws.

The uproar occurred when Associate Professor Matt Jordan (pictured) had his film studies class view the pro-KKK film The Birth of a Nation, then followed the movie with news clips of commentators blasting voter ID laws. 

According to an article by Brendan Pringle of the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) New Guard blog, YAF conservative student activist and Penn State senior Victor Schleich was in Jordan’s film class when the incident occurred. After class, the student wrote the professor the following email to share his concerns:

On Jan 10, 2013, at 2:59 PM, Victor Schleich wrote:

There was something at the end of class today that greatly concerned me. Towards the end of class we were going over the film THE BIRTH OF A NATION. The final shot we saw was a scene where a number of the KKK members were scaring black men back into their homes signifying voter suppression. I had no problem displaying that scene with the proper context that it was incredibly racist and that the content was unacceptable. However, as class was ending there was footage on the screen of news coverage concerning the issue of voter ID laws and commentary suggesting that these laws were new minority voter suppression. John Stewart even made references that these were the new horsemen of intimidation when it came to minorities voting. Now, in the context of the film we had discussed I can't help but see this display as an attempt to equate a voter ID law to actions taken by the KKK. If this was the intention of that footage then this is is incredibly offensive. However, I hope this is simply a misunderstanding.   

Jordan then emailed Schleich the following reply:

On Jan 10, 2013, at 3:12 PM, Matt Jordan wrote: 

Victor I was - indeed - trying to elicit moral comparisons with this juxtaposition, given that the KKK was behind voter suppression in the 1880s and 1920s, by splicing that clip in there. I am sorry that you find that offensive, but I find disenfranchizing [sic] minority and elderly voters based on specious arguments about voter fraud (which multiple studies have shown to be trumped up and, indeed, many of the architects of these laws have all but admitted were purely designed to suppress the vote) equally offensive in a country predicated on one person, one vote. I don't think I equated them, but I certainly want you all to think about it. I am sorry that you find this work of challenging you all to think offensive.

Matt Jordan

Associate Professor Dept. of Film/Video and Media Studies College of Communications

Penn State University


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