The University of Washington and the city of Seattle are known for many things. Hosting far-right conservatives who incite hate should not be one of them.
Make no mistake: the invitation by the UW’s College Republicans to Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos is not a bold statement supporting intellectual freedom and the First Amendment (Yiannopoulos is scheduled to speak at the UW Friday). Instead, it demonstrates an unwillingness on the part of university President Ana Mari Cauce to make a clear distinction between free speech and hate speech, between calls to action and calls to violence. Yiannopoulos and the organization he represents exploit this reluctance, which is often couched in terms of “inclusivity” to less popular ideas.
So, for President Cauce, the UW Board of Regents, the College Republicans and the community at large, here are some important distinctions:
- “Inclusiveness” by definition does not target others.
- Referring to diversity as “white genocide” is hate speech.
- Threats, and harassment, which, according to The Washington Post are “often the prelude to a mob of abuse,” are not protected speech.
- The racist abuse of actress Leslie Jones that got Yiannopoulos banned from Twitter is not protected speech.
Simply put, Yiannopoulos’ platform is not “controversial.” It is hate speech. This is what you have invited to our city.
The next four years are going to require strong, principled leaders who are willing to draw the line between real intellectual controversies and the incitement of race hatred. The Seattle chapter of the National Organization for Women calls on President Cauce and the University of Washington to cancel this week’s event.
France Giddings and Kjersten Gmeiner, co-presidents of Seattle NOW, on behalf of its Board of Directors