I’m not going to summarize political scientist Charles Murray’s recent Ath talk here because if I do, the stress will probably give me a heart attack. I will say that during his speech he brought up one of his more famous arguments, which is that poor people, especially people of color, are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. Though he didn’t mention it in this talk, he’s also famous for his essay ‘Where Are All The Female Einsteins,’ in which he states that, “no woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions.” Science, math, philosophy — apparently no woman has ever made any significant contribution.
I know that a lot of time, effort, and consideration is put into selecting Ath speakers. I also know that any of this information about Murray’s views on women and people of color is available with a simple Google search, which is how I found it. It’s simply not possible that the people who decided to invite Murray were unaware that he’s sexist and racist. However, they chose to invite him anyway.
I counted at least three guards from Campus Safety posted around the Ath. None of my friends who are seniors could remember ever seeing guards for an Ath talk. Clearly, administrators knew this was going to be a controversial talk, and wanted to head off any incidents of protest. The administration of Azuza Pacific University, a conservative religious college, recently ‘indefinitely postponed’ a speaking engagement with Murray, saying they were worried about, “hurting our faculty and students of color.” I guess CMC isn’t worried about that.
I’m disturbed and offended by Murray’s views, but I don’t find them nearly as disturbing or offensive as CMC’s reaction. Murray is not the first sexist and/or racist speaker we’ve had at the Ath, but he’s one of the most unabashedly vocal and well-documented. By inviting (or even merely allowing) him to speak at the Ath, the CMC administration is saying that they think these are valid views worth considering. Even if they’re not explicitly saying they agree with him, or think his views are correct, they’re giving him a platform to spew his bigotry. They’re taking a night that could have been used to feature a rare non-bigoted speaker, and giving it to an old white rich man who thinks that women and people of color are inferior beings. Never mind all the women at CMC going into the “great philosophical fields”, or all our brilliant students of color. The administration clearly prioritized having a big name at the Ath over the feelings and experiences of its students.
I’m also disappointed in many of the students, especially those who have privileges that give them, according to Murray, superior intelligence. Women and people of color might not have been taken seriously by Murray or felt safe speaking up, but what about all the white men in the audience, all of whom I know oppose racism and sexism? During the half hour of question and answer, not a single person had any objection to Murray’s bigotry. I’ve seen racism and sexism called out during the Q&A portion before — a student in the audience pointed out producer Sarah Johnson’s racism. So why didn’t anyone say something this time?
I know people have expressed that it’s good to hear both sides of an issue, and I would normally agree. However, under these circumstances, I categorically reject that. Listening to “both sides,” even when one is blatantly bigoted and offensive, is not a privilege afforded to the people being called inferior. As a woman, I can’t just sit still and listen to “both sides” when one side supports my humanity and the other dehumanizes and devalues me. To suggest we need to hear bigots out is a fundamentally ignorant view. I’m not suggesting that anyone should have been rude or disrespectful (though I would argue that being disrespectful is perfectly acceptable when someone is disrespecting your humanity), but someone could have politely called him out. Everyone in the Ath tonight let them self be a bystander to racism and sexism, and no one did anything about it.
At the end of the Q&A, Murray thanked us for being a good audience. “I’d like to thank Claremont for being what a university is supposed to be all about.” If politely listening while your friends, classmates, and whole swaths of humanity are categorically deemed inferior is what Claremont is “all about,” then CMC needs to make some serious changes. The administration should not promote or even tolerate bigotry, and neither should we.
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