We have been discussing the crackdown on free speech on college campuses as administrators punish any speech deemed insensitive or the still ill-defined category of “microaggressions.” One of the greatest concerns is the double standard showed to different speakers based on their content. The University of California at Berkeley is the most recent example of this controversy. In columns for the Daily Californian titled “Speaking Out”, “Fucking White Boys,” and “Choosing Myself Over White People”, Maggie Lam mocks and ridicules white people. A column using such language mocking people of color would instantly trigger demands for expulsion. It is not that I believe that Lam should be punished, to the contrary, I believe that it is far better to have the exchange of such views on campus than to regulate speech, particularly inconsistent regulation.
Lam refers to white people like her roommate as “the white devil” in denouncing “microaggressions” and describes her dorm room as “my oppressor’s bedroom looked like an Urban Outfitter’s catalog and smelled like a skinny white girl.”
Critics have charged that this and other race laden columns would never be tolerated by a white columnist. Given the effort to raise “microaggressions” to the level of sanctionable conduct, the concern is well placed. There has long been a lack of standard articulated in distinguishing race-based speech or conduct. I know little about the writings of Lam (and I have less interest after reading a couple of her columns). However, it does not matter. Race continues to divide society and Lam’s views will likely generate more debate and discussion on the subject. The solution is to return to the concept of a free speech zone for entire campuses and not isolated spaces. Good speech has a way to overcoming bad speech. Yet, many faculty and administrators want to actively silence views that they consider obnoxious or privilege or hateful. The result is uneven and unfair and ultimately self-defeating.
What do you think?