Paolo Federico-O’Murchu, The Miami Student
One of the biggest issues in modern-day liberalism is its closed mindedness towards differing opinions. For a party base that trumpets open-mindedness towards races, sexualities and genders, it can be startling insulated and occasionally aggressive when confronted with conservative ideals. While not emblematic of the entire party, there have been enough instances of younger progressives threatening and deriding speakers with opposing viewpoints for it to be considered a widespread problem.
Therefore, when my friend at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill posted on Facebook that Richard Spencer would no longer be coming to speak at his university, my initial reaction was that it was a shame Mr. Spencer wouldn’t be allowed to speak. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that colleges do not have the right to decide whether a viewpoint is correct. Rather, they can say whether a viewpoint is academic. A college allowing a speaker to have a platform in the school is tacitly endorsing them as having academic merit, and a viewpoint reasonable people could logically agree or disagree with. An avowed white supremacist does not meet these basic standards.
I was proud that in 2016 Miami University allowed Milo Yiannopoulos a chance to speak and that no violent protests resulted from his controversial words and actions. While his bloviations can veer from politically viable to trolling, he was an important voice in the election and deserved to be heard out. Universities cannot ban alt-right influencers from speaking, not when such supporters are advising our president.
While the line can be thin, there are different interpretations of the alt-right movement. The more mainstream one, and the one often mentioned by the current White House, is highly protectionist and nationalist. It promotes strong immigration security and more deportations. It derides political correctness and believes America was greater in the more organized nuclear family days. Internationally, it is wary of trade and treaty agreements, and wants to internalize manufacturing. All of the above are legitimate and debatable political points and deserve to be heard and argued on campus. Incidentally, they are quite similar to other conservative and libertarian theories.
The other branch is more subversive and fringy; it is popular on the internet but rarely endorsed by modern politicians. It crosses from nationalist to nativist, the latter of which has a racial undercurrent. While many conservatives espouse protecting the future of America from immigrants, this brand of alt-right talks of protecting the future of white Americans from minorities. This is what Richard Spencer writes about on his website “Alternative Right,” and for all intents and purposes, it is another name for white supremacy. The Republican party has to continue to distinguish and differentiate its beliefs from these discriminatory ones that helped cause the chaos in Charleston.
Of course, free speech protects Mr. Spencer. However the First Amendment is often miscited and justified. Free speech does not mean you can speak wherever you want, whenever you want, it just grants you legal protection for your words. When those hate preachers disparaging homosexuality come to Miami’s campus, free speech, and human decency, dictates they should not be arrested or harassed. However, they are relegated to standing outside and are not endorsed as a school event. The same treatment should be given to White Supremacy, as such outlandish beliefs cannot be school sanctioned.
I do not worry about the student response if Richard Spencer speaks at a school. His views are too vulgar and unsubstantiated to convince anyone based on the traditional rhetorical appeals. Those who leave his talks agreeing with his views likely went into the talk with a racist worldview. However, the bigger picture is what worries me. When institutions like universities, bastions for higher learning, invite white-supremacists to speak, it pulls their beliefs from the recluses of the ideological edges into mainstream discourse. America right now has a grave issue of promoting highly fringe ideals, from both parties, and acting as though these are conventional. When blatant outward racism is being discussed as a potential goal for the country, it becomes less scary, and more approachable.
America has already decided that “all men are created equal” is self-evident; there is no reason to discuss further. One should not question whether promoting the interests of one group of people over another is correct. White supremacy is undoubtedly, unquestionably and indisputably wrong, and one doesn’t need to listen to a speaker to come to that conclusion. Therefore, there is no reason a college should entertain their ideas or their speakers as well.