Pop culture commentator and Producer Lisa Durden certainly has a lot to say. She has been blessed with the “gift of gab”, and has positioned that into an array of appearances on radio and television. She has also created a number of internships for students in New York media. Her talents and relationship with students afforded her the opportunity to serve as an adjunct professor at Essex County College in her hometown of Newark, NJ.
That was until earlier this month, when she was escorted from her summer class to a meeting with the school’s administrators.
“They wanted to send a message. ‘See what happened to Lisa Durden? You know it could happen to me.’ Free speech doesn’t matter if you’re a professor, make people mad and you’re in trouble”
At the beginning of June, Lisa appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” as a commentator. She had appeared on the network several times before, despite receiving racist death threats. During the show, Lisa and Tucker debated the Black Lives Matter Memorial Day celebration that was only open to African Americans. Check out the heated exchange below:
Lisa’s controversial comment “Boo-hoo, you white people are angry because you couldn’t use your ‘white privilege’ card to get invited to the Black Lives Matter all-black Memorial Day celebration,” spread quickly. The backlash for Lisa seemed to be even quicker.
Two days after the episode aired, Lisa was notified by the school’s administrators that she had been investigated and suspended. They stated that they received a complaint about her recent Fox News appearance. When she inquired further about her dismissal, administrators stated she had improperly identified herself as an Essex professor (as she is an adjunct professor).
Outrage has poured in from students and faculty alike. Several of her colleagues have drafted a letter of support. Fellow Professor Jennifer Wager had this to say:
“I find it shocking that an African-American woman would be so disrespected at her place of employment for merely exercising her First Amendment right to free speech”
Students have created a petition on change.org calling for her reinstatement. It has gained 1000 signatures within the past week. The college’s Vice President Jeffrey Lee advised that “general counsel has handled this matter in a way that complies with New Jersey state law”, with no further information.
The debate over Freedom of Speech is definitely a hot issue right now. Legally, however, Lisa’s First Amendment rights have not been violated, as she has not been thrown in jail. Freedom of Speech does not mean freedom of consequence. Unfortunately, the consequences seem to happen more readily for women who look like Durden, not folks who look like Bill Maher or Donald Trump.
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