Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Black Lives Matter, So Does Free Speech

Another candle shines brightly in the darkness:
Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable. As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our own opinions, but there is no right not to be offended. We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.
Update, 9/30/15: The school acted correctly, the students did not:
Activists at Wesleyan have pushed the university to defund the Argus, the school’s main newspaper, in response to a commentary that questioned the tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece in question suggested that the BLM movement was responsible for cop killings, and questioned whether its tactics were actually effective in creating change. Campus activists, in turn, started a petition to defund the paper, which was signed by some 170 students—not a large number, even on a campus of 2,900 undergraduates, but still concerning. I am not disappointed that students have reacted, forcefully, in this way. I am disappointed in how they have reacted, and how much campus life have changed there since my childhood—a change the reflects a broader evolution of college politics that troubles so many...

Today’s Wesleyan students could have reacted to the piece in question by writing a response in the Argus. They could have started their own radical newspaper. They could have leafleted, or invited speakers, or used any other means to respond with better, more enlightened speech. By going straight to authority, they have instead embraced establishment power and asked it to be part of a liberatory struggle. That is folly. Institutions like Wesleyan may be made up of radicals, but they are by their nature conservative entities; that’s the nature of self-protective institutions.
This line struck a chord with me:
The fact that Wesleyan students so often advocate egalitarian politics while embodying privilege in their behavior does not indicate existential hypocrisy on their part. It simply illustrates the fact that many college students are still too young to meaningfully connect their politics to their own personal conduct.
Yep.  To paraphrase Jaime Escalante in Stand And Deliver, "It's not that they're stupid, they just don't know anything."


Pseudotsuga said...

I added his statements to my syllabi for this quarter's classes, in the section for Classroom behavior standards.
Did you also read the comments posted out at the original link at Wesleyan? There are some people out there who see this as a bad thing. Most of them are just parroting talking points about some speech needing to be protected or else it will be drowned out.

Darren said...

I read the original link comments. And those are supposedly educated people. Jefferson must be spinning in his grave.