Monday we hosted the infamous. No, not Mobb Deep. Candace Owens. Of course there was some noise on the fringes, you know, why is an HBCU hosting a conservative who loves Trump. I knew there would be some flak, but I’ve been hosting conservatives dating back to Ann Coulter at Philander in 2005. It hasn’t gotten me fired yet. And why should it if we really believe in a liberal arts education.
But something happened I did not expect at all. I had more students comment to me, outside of the celebrity speakers, that they were excited to hear her. A few were closeted conservatives and Republicans. They feel bullied if they share their ideology because as we all know, all black folks think alike, right? So to have someone who shared at least some of their thoughts was exciting.
However the vast majority of the comments were from students like me- really curious about her. Does she really believe this? What kind of person is she? What’s her story? For me, I wanted to know why her? We’ve had lots of Black conservatives through the years (like Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, and Armstrong Williams) but none of them have gotten the attention she has as she came up from obscurity in 2017, and then a Kanye tweet in April and subsequent presidential photo opp and meeting now has her at over 800,000 twitter followers.
As I said in my introduction, politically we’re polar opposites. But her visit was an opportunity to create a space to challenge some long held beliefs that I think prevent students from understanding issues thoroughly.
For example, students moaned when she talked about how Trump was a favorite topic by hip hop in the past. This is absolutely true and there have been a number of articles written on this fact. Just today I was on the phone with MC Serch of Third Base who is working on a documentary right now to talk about the link between Trump and hip hop.
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Students also moaned when she went after Bill Clinton. Most of them obviously had not read Michelle Alexander’s “New Jim Crow” or any ancillary articles she has written linking the ill effects of the war of drugs to the Clintons and damage to the Black community. Check out her piece below, which includes the subtitle “From the crime bill to welfare reform, policies Bill Clinton enacted — and Hillary Clinton supported — decimated black America.” Prof. Alexander is no conservative, but she and Candace would agree on this point.
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(Michelle Alexander spoke at Dillard in November 2012, the first time she had spoken at any Louisiana college or university)
This was also the first time in six years of Brain Food where a student group on their own organized a follow up discussion. As soon as I announced the fall speakers, the class VP met with me in August to pitch the idea. They also brought in an NAACP leader from Mobile AL to facilitate. Again, no students have done this for any other speakers, and as you know, we’ve had a great line up.
So yes, her presence, while sometimes messy, forced us to think critically, and not just about her love of Trump. She forced us to challenge some beliefs and then learn to how ask better questions to really break down her responses.
Anybody who thinks bringing in a speaker who causes all of this to happen is a bad idea because we don’t agree with their ideology is silly. Because for me her presence gave me additional ideas to address some weaknesses in the education our students have received all of their lives.