Penn State Professor Compares Voter ID Laws to KKK Tactics

A professor at Pennsylvania State University compared the push for voter ID laws to methods employed by the KKK to suppress people of color from voting.

By Jorge Rivas Jan 24, 2013

A media studies professor at Pennsylvania State University compared the GOP push for more voter ID laws to methods employed by the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) to suppress people of color from voting. His lesson plan has caused some uproar on conservative blogs but Professor Matt Jordan still stands by his lesson plan.

Earlier this month Professor Jordan presented scenes from the 1915 film "The Birth of a Nation" to his class that showed armed Klansmens intimidating black voters into not voting. Jordan then went on to show video clips of recent voter ID law news coverage to illustrate both tactics were used to disenfranchise certain groups of voters.

Victor Schleich, a student in Jordan’s class who objected to the lesson plan, published an e-mail he wrote to the professor on the Young America’s Foundation’s (YAF) New Guard blog. Schleich’s email to Jordan is below:

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’s response unapologetic response was also posted on the blog:

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