Californians subject to nearly half of worst U.S. censorship incidents of 2023



(The Center Square) – Four of the 10 worst censorship incidents in the U.S. in 2023 occurred in California, according to an analysis from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting free speech.

In California, the report focused on four educational institution-related incidents. Muirlands Middle School disciplined a student for wearing eye black to a football game in what it called “blackface.” At San Francisco State University, students forced former Olympic swimmer Riley Gaines to withdraw to a safe room during a speech on female sports and the administration investigated a professor for showing a non-satirical depiction of the prophet Muhammed.

FIRE also filed a lawsuit against the California Community College system for forcing all of its instructors to “teach and promote politicized conceptions” of diversity, equity and inclusion and be evaluated and granted tenure based on demonstrated commitment to the government’s vision of DEI.

Muirlands Middle School suspended and banned from future athletic events a middle school student who put on eye black to cover part of his face — only his cheeks and chin below his eyes, excluding his ears, neck, and his nose, mouth, and the area in between — for wearing “blackface.” Blackface was the controversial application of makeup by 18th and 19th century performers to caricature black individuals, while the application of glare-reducing eye black is common in athletes and fans. FIRE, which spoke with the student’s family, told the school the student’s eye black “has no racial connotations whatsoever,” and significant punishment of the student was “preposterous.” The students’ parents filed an ongoing lawsuit to remove the suspension from his record.

At San Francisco State University, students “accosted” Gaines in an attempt to shut down her speaking event on gender and sports, with security escorting Gaines to a secure room she was trapped in for three hours. Just a day before, FIRE demanded SFSU stop its investigation of a professor under its “discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct and retaliation policy” for his showing of a drawing of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in a course on Islamic History. FIRE claims this investigation “implies the potential of punishment” and thus infringes on academic and First Amendment freedoms. The university said it has a “limited ability” to dismiss the investigation unless the student who “strongly objected” to the material withdraws the complaint.

Under new CCC guidelines, the more than 54,000 professors teaching the state’s more than 1.8 million community college students must “acknowledge” that “cultural and social identities are diverse, fluid, and intersectional” and build “knowledge of the intersectionality of social identities and the multiple axes of oppression that people from different racial, ethnic, and other minoritized groups face.” Moreover, “faculty performance and tenure will be evaluated based on professors’ commitment to and promotion of the government’s viewpoints.” FIRE is leading the lawsuit on behalf of professors claiming these rules violate the First Amendment for compelling state-mandated speech.

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