Right-wing activist and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk visited Auburn Thursday night in a crowded auditorium in the Hotel at Auburn University.
Kirk and Allie Beth Stuckey, a conservative author and podcast host, came to Auburn as part of Turning Point USA’s “Educate Don’t Mandate” tour and were hosted by Auburn University’s chapter of the conservative nonprofit organization.
Open for free to both students and the general public, the crowd filled the hotel auditorium, which has a seating capacity of 356 people, according to the hotel’s website.
Kirk and Stuckey’s discussion touched on many hot-button political issues including transgender rights and systemic racism — both of which the speakers deny exist — as well as the group’s core values of limited government and self reliance.
Before the event started, many said they were looking forward to discussions of vaccine and mask mandates for COVID-19, neither of which are in place at Auburn University, but Kirk and Stuckey spent very little time discussing the topic.
Jerome Kelly, freshman in political science, said he was glad Auburn is no longer enforcing a mask mandate, but he was interested to see what the speakers would talk about given that the tour's title is based on the idea that the government shouldn’t enact such mandates.
Taking the stage at the conclusion of a three-minute hype video welcoming “based patriots,” Kirk and Stuckey’s entrance was met with a standing ovation. Shortly after, Kirk posed the question to his fellow speaker, “What is a woman?”
During the pair’s ensuing 15-minute conversation about transgender people, Kirk and Stuckey continually claimed that gender is simpler than what nearly all scientific authorities say it is.
“It is something that is biological that people for all of human history have known without going to college and without ever having been told this from a teacher,” Stuckey said. “It’s biological, it’s scientific, it’s immutable.”
The pair went on to talk about the importance of personal responsibility. Kirk said he does not believe white privilege exists but that privilege based on other characteristics, such as height and birth order, does.
“We’ve reduced our entire conversation and said, ‘Oh, your skin color is the only type of privilege.’ By the way, it doesn’t exist, and we’ll get into that later,” Kirk said. “But we never talk about any of these other factors.”
During Kirk and Stuckey’s last few minutes before opening the floor to questions from the audience, they shared advice to students. Both Kirk and Stuckey encouraged students to get married and start a family young, start businesses and “stop blaming other people for their problems.”
The first student asked what “true traditionalist conservatives” should be doing “to prevent the New World Order?”
“Rather than moving towards globalization and depending on big government for everything, we move toward localization, polarization, make red areas redder and depend on one another,” Stuckey said. “That’s my solution to it.”
The last student to ask a question pushed back against Kirk’s claim that “white privilege is a myth.”
“According to the Bureau of Prison Statistics … 38.3% of our current inmate population is Black, but according to the 2020 census data, only 12.2% of our national population is Black,” she said. “So if you don’t believe in white privilege, how do you explain this disparity?”
Kirk then claimed that Black people are imprisoned at higher rates than white people because of high rates of single parenthood in Black families, which he says was incentivized through the creation of a “welfare state.”
While Black children in two-parent homes are less likely to be incarcerated, the Institute for Family Studies writes that a “two-parent family is no panacea for African-American children,” and that “racial inequality casts a shadow even on black children in intact families.”
While the majority of attendees seemed in support of Kirk and Stuckey, some students showed up with differing political views.
“I wasn’t even planning on coming to this until the anti-abortion people came to campus,” said Devin Christopherson, sophomore in civil and environmental engineering. “I kind of felt like this tacked onto that was just kind of a slap in the face, as well as on Trans Visibility Day,” which was Thursday, the day of Kirk’s visit to Auburn.
Christopherson said he felt like the speakers’ arguments didn’t hold up to scrutiny.
“It was kind of just ridiculous,” he said. “It was full of contradictions and logical holes, but I mean, it’s a free country. … Do your thing.”
Ross Walker, sophomore in biomedical sciences, felt like attending would help him understand how conservatives think and make their arguments.
“I’m a Democrat, but I’m interested in how the radical right people speak,” Walker said. “Compared to 2020, I feel like the movement’s getting a little bigger, and understanding how the other side thinks might be important to counter their arguments.”
Others were happy to see so many Auburn students who share political beliefs.
“I just wanted to learn more and also support what they're doing, just because I think it’s awesome that … such a majority of the community does kind of stand [together] on these viewpoints,” said Lanie Kozlowski, sophomore in professional flight. “What I love so much about going to school here is the politics of it.”
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