Now here I am in the revivified Newsweek: on page 29 in the June 3rd issue, here in the online version.
Until it was squashed by administrative decree, Williams College sophomore Zachary Wood headed up an on-campus lecture series called “Uncomfortable Learning.” Wood, an African-American who grew up in one of the poorer neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., is a self-described liberal, devoted to learning and books. He liked inviting controversial speakers, usually from the political right, to challenge young progressives cloistered in a collegiate utopia at one of the nation’s great small liberal arts institutions.You can see his point. Selling crack is less bother, and way more profitable, than promoting open discussion on a college campus.
Last year, though, Wood encountered the limits of free speech at Williams. First, he invited Suzanne Venker, an anti-feminist author and lecturer. After a campus and social media outcry, Wood’s fellow “Uncomfortable Learning” leaders disinvited her and then, to avoid further shaming on social media, resigned from the organization.
Wood then formed a club of one and invited an even more confrontational speaker, British-American writer John Derbyshire, whose contributions to the racial discourse include a snide white dad’s version of “the talk” black men give their sons about police. After suggesting that blacks are more “antisocial” than whites, he wrote that a small percentage “is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us,” while “around half will go along [with violence] passively if the five percent take leadership in some event.”
An hour after Wood advertised Derbyshire’s speech with a Facebook post, he was swarmed. On Facebook, someone wrote that Wood deserved the “oil and whip”—a reference to a punishment for slaves. Others accused him of providing a space on campus for “hate speech” and began debating how to file a complaint against him. When Wood replied to one critic, “So you would never bring a speaker on the far right, like Venker and Derbyshire? I value the work I do with UL,” someone retorted, “I’d rather sell crack first.”
Well, recognition is always bracing. Look out for my coming op-ed in The New York Times. Onward and upward! Excelsior!