White supremacist Richard Spencer is coming to the University of Cincinnati in March to deliver his message of modern-day apartheid. CNN host W. Kamau Bell, who once stood as a vulnerable black man at a Klan meeting in rural Kentucky, said that he was less afraid being at a Klan meeting than he was when meeting Richard Spencer.
To understand Bell’s remarks, you should know something about Richard Spencer. He is intelligent, educated, articulate, and looks like he should be on the cover of a men’s fashion magazine, although it is unlikely it would be GQ.
Bell, of course, did not fear that Spencer would attack him physically. What Bell feared was that Spencer’s intellectual attributes, good looks, and charisma gave him a certain credibility that traditional purveyors of racism could only envy.
If Bell thought harder about it, he would realize that Spencer’s greatest strength might not be his intellectual talents, but that people want to shut him down.
That mindset, much in vogue across the nation’s campuses where dissonant ideas are not to be heard, was articulated by University of Cincinnati junior Kendall Smith who wrote on the Cincinnati Enquirer blog, “While we know we do not want to hear Richard Spencer, some people do. We must stop them from hearing and supporting his hateful, threatening ideas.”
Smith is a product of the perverse notion that if you object to an idea, you don’t engage it with another idea — you shut it down. All the while, you arrogate to yourself the right to decide what ideas should and should not be heard.