If you only read or listen to mainstream media, you would be unaware of the latest outrage on an esteemed American university campus. Threats to free speech that come from the left of political center conflict with the accepted narrative with which mainstream media is most comfortable, and therefore are overlooked. If it weren’t for sites such as realclearpolitics.com where readers are deemed intelligent enough to be able to survive reading opposing viewpoints on the same space, I would have missed this particular string of events that to me represent the insanity that has swept our college and university campuses. This article on the site led me to others.
In February, an invitation to speak was issued by the Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative, student funded campus organization at California State University of Los Angeles to Ben Shapiro. Mr. Shapiro is a widely heard and read conservative political commentator and New York Times Bestseller List author, with impeccable academic credentials from UCLA from where he graduated at age 20, and a law degree from Harvard from where he graduated at age 23 with more honors. While his point of view might not be popular with groups such as Black Lives Matter, there is nothing particularly threatening or dangerous about Mr. Shapiro – or so any well-read, open-minded person might think. In fact, if I were a student who opposed his point of view on anything, I would still be interested in learning how he succeeded so well academically and in his chosen career.
Ben Shapiro’s proposed topic dealt with the threats to diversity of values and thought posed by the now widely accepted – at least on our campuses – concepts of microagressions and safe spaces. The response by the student body to his invitation ironically supported his contentions, and sadly followed a now familiar pattern. In order to protect their jobs from the wrath of the PC police, having learned from events at Yale, the University of Missouri, and so many other institutions of “higher education,” administrators caved in to threats of violence and upheaval from the very students who feel “unsafe and threatened” by free speech on campus. The invitation was taken back, but under pressure was reissued, although the university’s president unfortunately said that the invitation should never have been issued, and in the future “divisive” speakers (i.e. those with unpopular viewpoints) should be banned from campus. I imagine we have to protect students from learning something new. The students who felt threatened by Ben Shapiro attempted to blockade the venue and assaulted students who wished to attend. The speaker was shut down. The students who managed to get inside to hear the speech and Mr. Shapiro had to be escorted by the police to safety. Our future youth were saved from the threat of an opposing opinion – but apparently not the trauma and threat to safety it inflicted on the student body.
Three months after this incident, the Black Student Union felt the need to organize a “healing space” for the traumatized and brutalized students exposed to the possibility of hearing Ben Shapiro speak. The event was titled “Debrief on Anti-Blackness; Threats of Violence.” There President Covino expressed his wish to prevent similar invitations from being issued. Melina Abdullah, the department chair of Pan-African Studies called Mr. Shapiro a neo-Nazi.
Mr. Shapiro’s point of view is widely available on line, and should you dare risk your safety, you can read it or listen to one of his broadcasts and decide if he should be barred from speaking to young Americans who are attempting to get an education that will prepare them for the real world.
Although more than 2,000 miles from these events, I too feel threatened. As a supporter of free speech on campus, I once again expose myself to being labeled a racist. I wrote a novel calling out the harm to race relations that can be done when we aren’t allowed to speak the truth, if the truth is politically incorrect. I spend time writing about the need to bring various viewpoints together in order to heal our racial divide. How prepared will our future leaders be to work together with others to solve problems if they won’t even acknowledge that an opposing viewpoint might have some validity? Even if another point of view has no validity, how will those who prevent it from being heard argue against it if successfully if they don’t even listen to it?
I think it is free speech on campus that needs a safe space, and students should be forced out of hiding from the real world. If they spent more time listening and learning in order to form educated opinions, and less time making excuses for why they can’t learn in some imagined unsafe, threatening, ivy covered garden, they might actually learn something that will help them succeed in life. Standing on the shoulders of those who came before them, they now have the equality of opportunity to attend whichever school for which they qualify. They should make the most of it.