From the stories coming out about a University of Wisconsin law professor, it seems that UW-Madison has its very own tenured Michael Richards. Unlike Richards, however, UW law professor Leonard Kaplan's remarks targeted Wisconsin's Hmong minority. Also unlike Richards, Kaplan's remarks, however insensitive they may seem in the lack of context in which we are seeing them, were not racist. According to The Associated Press, an e-mail distributed by a Hmong student quotes Kaplan making comments as ridiculous as "Hmong men have no talent other than to kill," as well as "Hmong women are better off now that Hmong men are dying off in this country." On the Hmong and gangs, Kaplan is quoted as saying, "All second-generation Hmong end up in gangs and other criminal activity." Other outlandish highlights from Kaplan's now-infamous lecture include, "All (Hmong) men purchase their wives. So if he wants to have sex with his wife and she doesn't consent, you and I call it rape, but the Hmong guy is thinking, 'Man, I paid too much for her!'" It's an incredible story, really. One would imagine Kaplan went Michael Richards on his class, complete with finger pointing and awkward laughter from his audience slowly giving away to pained gasps. Rumor has it that there may even be a grainy cell phone video circulating around YouTube of the event. With these kinds of quotes flying around, we can only wonder why Kaplan has yet to be removed from his position at the law school. So, after a casual perusal of the information provided, do you find yourself feeling disgusted? Angered? Comfortable with labeling Kaplan's comments as racist, bigoted rhetoric? You should. Unless you're a racist. Though chances are if you're a racist, you wouldn't be reading my column. Assuming you're not a racist and comfortable with labeling Kaplan's comments as racial bigotry, rest assured you are not alone. KaShia Moua, the Hmong student who originally sent the e-mail disclosing Kaplan's racial broadsides, characterized the comments as "incredibly offensive and racist." Usually I'd agree with such a characterization after reading such ostensibly vitriolic comments. However, fellow Hmong student, Nam Dao, insists he was not offended by the comments. Jigga what? A Hmong student entirely not offended by Kaplan's seemingly derogatory generalizations of the entire Hmong population? Why the disparity between Dao's and Moua's reactions? Perhaps it's because Dao was there. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Dao admitted that he "felt a bit uncomfortable mainly due to the delivery of the stereotypes, which were shrouded in Kaplan's trademark style of humor that can be quite polarizing." But Dao insists that Kaplan's ridiculous assessment of the Hmong dowry system was in reality an attempt to explain how "ethnic minorities can use a 'cultural defense argument' in rape cases." Additionally, Dao attributes Kaplan's "gang and criminal activity" comment to Kaplan's attempt at critiquing Wisconsin's mishandling of providing educational and vocational opportunities to its Hmong population. While racist rants are a crude way to spark social change, a pattern in Kaplan's behavior is beginning to emerge. This man is no racist, and his comments — when taken in context — do not reflect a prejudiced view on his part. It is possible that what Dao saw — as opposed to what we have heard — was not a man lashing out in prejudiced anger at an ethnic minority group, but rather a law professor who used rather extreme examples in an attempt to explain the intricacies of lawmaking in a diverse and increasingly complex society. While his delivery may seem a bit abrasive to some, his audience was a classroom full of a demographic that I am sure is more than capable of handling the impassioned and earnest pedagogy of tenured law professors — law students. Especially when that law professor harbors no ill will toward the ethnic minority in question and particularly when a member of said ethnic minority in attendance is not offended in the least. Initial reactions to Kaplan's comments do not at all reflect an understanding of the context in which Kaplan made his comments. Professors like Kaplan should endeavor to exercise tact when discussing ethnic stereotypes; however, in the interest of a free and frank exchange of ideas, professors should be allowed to speak in the subjunctive without worrying that it will be used against them. Kaplan is not guilty of racist generalizations that are reflective of his inner prejudices. The man deserves the benefit of the doubt, or at least a chance to explain himself. Gerald Cox ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in Middle Eastern studies and economics.