In a surprising twists some Civil right activists are calling on the University of Alabama to reverse their decision to expel Harley Barber, the former student whose racist videos sparked outrage.
Barber caused a national outcry after videos, in which she repeatedly said the N-word and claimed that she could do so to her heart’s content now that she lived in the South, surfaced on social media.
The University acted swiftly condemning Haley Barber’s videos. As the firestorm gained traction administrators announced that Barber was no longer a student at the University of Alabama.
But while many in the African-American community felt expulsion was warranted, former American Civil Liberties Union officials said that the university’s decision to expel Barber was “unconstitutional, un-strategic and likely to be ineffective,” while also noting that they said they were “dismayed and disgusted” by the videos.
“This was a teachable moment that you should not squander”
The civil rights activists explained their position that Barber should learn from her decision and reap the consequences.
“The University of Alabama is an educational institution, and this was a teachable moment that you should not squander,” the activists wrote in a letter to University of Alabama President Stuart R. Bell, according to NJ.com.
The letter in support of Harley Barber was signed by Ira Glasser, a former executive director of the ACLU; Norman Siegel, a 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 a former executive committee member of ACLU.
“The impulse to punish Ms. Barber in response to what she said in that video is understandable as an emotional reaction,” they wrote.
The letter also addressed the First Amendment, saying that it was dangerous to silence speech even if it is not something that you agree with. After all, they noted, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was once considered to be inflammatory.
“The first ban on ‘offensive’ speech is never the last, and the power to ban speech is barred by the First Amendment because it all depends on who is exercising that power, and what he or she finds ‘offensive,'” they wrote.
Jill Barbera believes that her daughter, Harley Barber, who was recently expelled from the University of Alabama for racist videos, deserved her punishment.
“I agree with the punishment,” Barbera told NJ.com. “I fully support their decision.”
Barbera said that she had kicked her daughter out of her home in December 2016 after the two had argued repeatedly. Currently, Barber lives with her father’s mother.
She also claimed that she had never heard her daughter use racist language in their home and that it was certainly not something Barbera had taught.
“This is not a reflection of how she was raised,” Barbera said. “She’s just degrading herself and it breaks my heart. I hope someone can look at this and learn. I don’t want anyone to feel what I feel.”
On a personal note, Barbera said that she was worried about the effect that this would have on her family. Barber’s younger sister still attends school in the area, and Barbera said that she was worried for her daughters’ safety. She explained that people had threatened her on social media and accused her of being responsible for Barber’s reprehensible behavior.
“How do you tell a 10-year-old this?” Barbera said. “I really want people to know that I am not sitting hugging Harley on the couch saying, ‘It’s OK.’”
Barbera added that she wanted her daughter to be able to move forward and learn from her mistakes.
“I love my kid. I wish this never happened for everyone involved,” Barbera said. “I can’t apologize for her actions, and I won’t. But I’ll apologize for the pain it caused people.”