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Law professor tries to leverage phony claims of racial victimization into better job

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In the fall of 2012, Nancy Leong, a law professor at the University of Denver, was taken to task on JD Underground for authoring what a commenter considered a very bad law review article, which, in the critic’s view, highlighted the absurdity of a system in which law professors with literally no experience in the practice of law are paid to churn out dilettantish “cultural criticism” of the sort that could be produced — at almost infinitely lower cost — by any clever undergraduate. (Note that the very first response to the JDU post came from cyber-stalker extraordinaire Brian Leiter, using one of his many internet pseudonyms).

The JDU post led to a series of events that have concluded with Leong accusing the JDU poster of racially motivated harassment, and filing a complaint against him with the bar in the state where the poster practices.

Here is the sum total of Leong’s “evidence” for her claim that the JDU poster has subjected her to racist harassment:

The only example Leong offers to substantiate her contention that I made numerous racist posts is particularly ludicrous. In a comment on a JD Underground (JDU) thread last year, I referred to a law professor conference in Hawaii, where Leong was one of the speakers, as “a gravy train, or shall I say, a luau train.” “Gravy train” was a reference to the free vacations masquerading as scholarly conferences that law professors routinely hold for themselves, vacations ultimately paid for by their massively indebted students. “Luau train” was my reference to the fact that this particular law professor conference was held at a Waikiki beach resort, where they stage starlight luaus for the pampered resort guests.

Leong described my joke about a “luau train” as an effort to disparage her Native Hawaiian ancestry, something I had no idea she possessed. Personally, I doubt that Leong herself believes that that comment was racist. It is yet another irony that a lawprof, who blogs in an authoritative tone about the proper way to converse about race, grants herself permission to defend her wounded pride with false accusations of racism.

More generally, Leong’s definition of “harassment” seems to be that a few anonymous commenters on a couple of fairly obscure web sites have said some mean things about her cv and her law review articles (A couple of these comments could be described fairly as sexist, in that they implied or asserted that Leong’s professional success has been in part due to her appearance. Characterizing this as adding up to harassment seems like quite a stretch, although absurdly enough a Slate columnist recently went so far as to equate Leong’s almost completely imaginary “victimization” with that experienced by Jonathan Martin. Note that Leong could avoid being “harassed” in this way by choosing not to read JD Underground and OTLSS. Update:Per JDU posters some offensive comments were scrubbed by the administrator from at least one of the JDU threads. So the links probably don’t give a complete picture of the extent to which Leong was the target of sexist or racist comments. It should go without saying that such comments are deplorable, and also tend to take attention away from the many legitimate criticisms aimed at Leong in these threads.).

Indeed, in what appears to be a classic case of projection, the only actual harasser in this context appears to be Leong herself, who, after tracking down her critic’s identity, both emailed him and called him at his place of employment, demanding that he have a telephone conversation with her, and threatening to “out” him if he refused. When he declined her offer, she decided to file the bar complaint.

All this is adding up to a particularly preposterous example of how some people who have spent their entire lives near the top of the American SES pyramid will strive to leverage their very tenuously racialized identities into yet more social privilege. (Leong is currently angling for a job at UCLA. In the kind of plot twist you can’t put in an academic novel because it would be much too heavy-handed, her newest law review article is entitled “Identity Entrepreneurs.”)

People who wish to judge for themselves whether Leong has been subjected to “harassment” (racial or otherwise) in any meaningful sense can look at the threads on JDU and OTLSS that reference her:

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Update: This post should have been more precisely focused on Leong’s decision to file a bar complaint against Dybbuk. Leong is giving off every sign of trying to get out of Denver faster than the protagonist of a Bob Seger song, so I tend to interpret her decision to try to make a huge deal out of Dybbuk’s comments as a tactical career move (Oppressed Woman of Color Fights the Power — “the power” here being a couple of scamblogs of all things).

But that’s not really the central point. The central point is that a law professor is trying to get a lawyer professionally sanctioned for having the temerity to publish harsh and wholly justified criticisms of her. Leong is understandably eager to focus attention on the fact that the lawyer made the mistake of making a couple of arguably sexist remarks in the process, all the better to deflect attention from both her wholly false accusation of racism against him, and the essential accuracy of his substantive criticisms.

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