White nationalist Richard Spencer will be giving a lecture at Foy Hall on Tuesday, April 18. Unsurprisingly, the University administration was too cowardly to have rejected his offer to use Foy Hall.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) made a comment the other day that “highly recommend[ed] against” any sort of protest and to “not give him any attention at all." Their reasoning was that he wants protest, as if the backlash is his reason for coming in the first place.
This view is extremely misguided and it’s quite disappointing to see the SPLC fall victim to this line of respectability politics.
The reason Richard Spencer is coming to Auburn University isn’t to incite protests. He’s here to give an intellectual justification for white supremacy. Look at Spencer’s entire career.
He was fired from his position as assistant editor at The American Conservative for his extreme views, and he is currently the president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank. Spencer isn’t some hack or scam artist; he’s an educated ideologue who legitimately believes white people deserve their own American “ethno-state” through “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
Some people might say that Spencer should be engaged with in dialogue rather than through protest. Philosopher Slavoj Zizek sums up my thoughts on this well: “I would like to live in a society where rape is simply considered unacceptable, so that anyone who argues for it appears an eccentric idiot, not in a society where one has to argue against it.” The same goes for white nationalism: I refuse to treat Spencer’s racist views as deserving of dialogue rather than scorn.
White nationalism isn’t simply an abstract issue. There has been a surge in hate crimes over the last few months in the United States. Even in Auburn, students and faculty have seen the impact of this phenomenon. An Auburn student had his apartment graffitied with the word “ARAB” and a pair of watching eyes above it.
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An Auburn White Student Union has been organizing in the area as well. The group formerly went by “Whites of the Alt-Right Educating Auburn Gentiles for Liberation and Empowerment” or W.A.R. E.A.G.L.E, perverting the notion of the Auburn Family to pit whites against the rest of our diverse students and faculty. Non-white students are right to be afraid in a climate where white supremacy and neo-Nazism can become acceptable political views.
Spencer’s lecture isn’t simply a publicity stunt. He sees himself as a public intellectual, inspiring people to act in line with his values. He has a master's degree from the University of Chicago and was a doctoral candidate at Duke for a couple years. He gives lectures to share ideas and motivate people to think creatively and pragmatically about white nationalism, and he believes that college students are especially influential in that regard.
Ignoring him allows him to give his lecture peacefully and without disruption as if he were a normal intellectual deserving academic respect for his ideas. He uses his criticism of “SJWs” to scare ordinary people from taking any meaningful action against him, in fear of being lumped in with angry protesters, which the media love to demonize.
Unfortunately, many at Auburn have taken his bait and have neglected to give any kind of strong response. Both the Auburn SPLC and local coffee shop Prevail Union have events on diversity taking place at the same time as his lecture, yet both organizations have refused to condemn Spencer on their event pages.
I understand the appeal of trying to ignore Spencer, but now is not the time to be wishy-washy about your thoughts on white nationalism. I am glad that these organizations that I have long supported have chosen to respond in a meaningful way, but I implore you and any other Auburn organization to explicitly condemn the man and to show solidarity with those who are choosing to protest.
Additionally, If President Jay Gogue wishes to stop providing Spencer a platform at our school, he still has the power to do so. But I won’t hold my breath.
Richard Spencer wants to be seen as the “intellectual vanguard” of the alt-right, to be treated as a public intellectual with ideas worth sharing. Ignoring him will simply give him legitimacy that he does not deserve in the eyes of the public. The only proper response is to voice our opposition and to stand together against him.
This letter to the editor was submitted by Auburn alumnus Dannial Budhwani.
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