Ath Talks Aren't Neutral

Students and campus safety officers gather outside the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on Thursday. (Liam Brooks • The Student Life)

During the protest at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum at Claremont McKenna College yesterday, which Samuel Breslow reported on in this week’s issue of TSL, a common argument by counter-protesters was one that seems reasonable on paper: “I agree that Black lives matter, but I also want to see the speech.”

Heather Mac Donald was scheduled for the evening program at the Ath to argue against the Black Lives Matter movement, whose position against police brutality she calls “tragic” and whose platform she deems a “myth”.

“If we are going to have a ‘Lives Matter’ crusade, it would more appropriately be labeled 'White and Hispanic Lives Matter,'” Mac Donald wrote last year in National Review, citing what she saw as the reality of “black crime”.

It makes sense, then, that the focus of Thursday’s protest was the worth of Black lives and the need to end police brutality, seeing as Mac Donald’s work argues directly otherwise.

But, despite what critics of the protest argued, simply agreeing that Black lives matter is not enough to counter the influence of Mac Donald’s ideas. If we allow her to speak at the Ath or attend her talk, we are amplifying her voice and enhancing her credibility.

Last month, we proposed that writing and publishing an article, even if it's "free of opinion," is not passive. This is a throughline for many of our editorials this year: many actions that seem neutral in theory are actually entrenched in unconscious bias.

The ability to hold ideas in one’s head that directly oppose one’s own beliefs is necessary for learning, and can indeed be a neutral act motivated by a need to better understand a complicated or tumultuous issue.

If you want to expose yourself to Mac Donald’s ideas, it’s not hard to read through Mac Donald’s author page on the National Review or buy her books on Amazon.

But showing up at an Athenaeum event, dressed to the nines for a dinner and long-winded introduction, is not a neutral act. The select few speakers who are invited to our colleges with respect and fanfare should espouse the most important ideas of our time, not a rehashed support for systemic racism.

There’s no way to truly support the Black Lives Matter movement while fetishizing the First Amendment into an excuse for supporting racists. We encourage people who flippantly say “Black lives matter” while supporting speakers like Mac Donald to slow down and consider the real meaning behind that proclamation.