Spiked Magazine Panel – "Identity Politics: The New Racialism on Campus?"

Sp!ked Magazine,

Release Date
October 13, 2017


Education Free Speech Politics & Policy

Does Identity politics cut us off from important conversations on issues that affect us all? Watch the Unsafe Space Tour panel discussion at Rutgers University featuring Kmele Foster, Sarah Haider, Bryan Stascavage, and Mark Lilla. Moderated by Tom Slater (of Spiked Magazine).

  1. Shaming Someone Doesn’t Change Their Mind (video): Learn Liberty breaks down the science of persuasion, citing the work of Alana Conner, cultural scientist as Stanford University.
  2. Making Sense Of “Trumpism” (video): In a conversation with Dave Rubin of The Rubin Report, Prof. Steve Davies describes his view of the importance of identity politics in the rise of “Trumpism” in the U.S. and nationalist politics throughout Europe.
  3. The Defense of Liberty Can’t Do Without Identity Politics (article): In an article for the Niskanen Center, Prof. Jacob T. Levy of McGill University makes a case for why “we should criticize identity politics when it goes wrong, as it often does in moments of symbolic, cultural, and campus politics,” but also recognize its importance in mobilizing those who unjustly suffer oppression under state power.

TOM SLATER: And it’s because we see some of those ideals as under attack that we decided to put on this tour, to put on events like this. So over the next couple of months, through the unsafe space we’re bringing together some of our favorite, some of the most eloquent defenders of free expression, critics of the new climate on campus, which seems to be about shutting down discussion, to really try and get to grips and interrogate that climate, and tonight we’re talking about what is, I think for my money, the most contentious aspect to this discussion, that of identity politics and how it relates to free speech on campus. Now, from Spike’s perspective, we come from a left wing, universalist, anti-racist history. We always understood race as something, which was a nasty concoction, which we needed to transcend, and yet when we look at UK campuses, US campuses in particular, we see a new form racial difference effectively kind of being reified in politically correct terms.
From the rise of things like cultural appropriation, the idea that culture splits along identity lines, produces the rise of things like microaggressions, where policing speech and wanting to effectively lay out some kind of etiquette as to how people should interact with one another—to us seem to be the warning signs of something which was reifying that kind of decisiveness on campus, and increasingly something that I think we see of course is the idea that one’s identity naturally leads to one’s ideology, and that anyone who questions that is questioning you as a person, and through all sorts of different aspects of debate on campuses, I think we see that we see that bare out.
The key question that the panel here are gonna address, and that we wanna hear your thoughts on, is if we’re in a climate in which we’re urging students of different backgrounds to kind of tiptoe around each other, if we’re telling them that culture divides along these kinds of lines, and if ultimately we’re suggestion that identity is something really important that we should talk about all the time, even in the absence or any of the kind of explicit racism we might’ve seen in the past, are we actually getting further away from that position that we position that we say we all want to be in, which is transcending race, and difference, and identity altogether, so that’s what we’re going to be speaking about. So I’m going to introduce the panel very quickly in the order in which they’ll speak. They’re gonna speak for about 5 minutes and then I’m gonna kick it out to you guys as soon as possible.
First up on my immediate left we have Kmele Foster. Kmele was a co-founder and a partner at FreeThink Media, which is a fantastic production company, they make documentary film about people at the forefront of human innovation, the kind of unsung heroes, which is fantastic, but he’s also a real rising star of commentary and issues of public policy, he has a great podcast as well called The Fifth Column, which I can highly recommend. So after Kmele, there we go. After Kmele sat right next to him as Bryan Stascavage. Bryan is a free speech advocate, he’s a writer, and he’s a student at Wesleyan University. He became quite notorious, I think it’s fair to say, in 2015 when he wrote an article for the Wesleyan Argus, which I would say is kind of gently critical of Black Lives Matter in relation to what he saw as it’s tactic should be. As a result, there were many protests, there was calls to not only defund, but I think recycle the paper, and so he’s someone who’s been really been at the core face of this, and it’s been really interesting the way in which he’s put his case, so it’s great to have Bryan here as well.
And after Bryan sat there on the second from the far right, we have Sarah Haider. Sarah is a writer, she’s a speaker, she’s an activist, she’s one of the founders of the Ex-Muslims of North America arguing for atheism, for human rights, for free speech, and as someone who Spiked definitely very much admires, so it’s great to have Sarah here as well tonight.
And then last, but by no means least, on my far left down the end there we have Mark Lilla. Mark is a professor at Columbia University, of Humanities, and is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, and the international press, and he made himself a little bit notorious in 2016 when he wrote an article for the New York Times called After Identity Liberalism. It became the most read article on the website of the year, and has now birthed a new, fantastic book called The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, which I can highly recommend to all of you, so that’s Mark.
I’m gonna ask the speakers as I said speak for about 5 minutes. Panel: I’m gonna be quite tight on timings, and the reason for that is we really do want to bring it out to you guys as soon as possible. If you haven’t already noticed, you soon will. Most of these guys are broadly critical of identity politics, they come at it from different angles, but nevertheless. This event is as much about you guys as it is about them. We’re devoting as much of the time as possible to a real discussion between the floor and the panel, and even if you vehemently disagree with the whole framework of what we’re talking about, we want to hear from you, we want to hear your points, that’s what all of this is about. In that spirit, that’s what we’ll continue on with. Without further ado, Kmele if you’d like to kick us off.
KMELE FOSTER: Sure. First, thank you very much to Spiked. Thanks so much to all of you for coming out. I hope that this will be a productive, interesting, engaging conversation. I hope that everyone here sort of has an opportunity to engage either during this, or afterwards. I hate throat clearing, but I’m gonna do a little bit of it anyways in the hopes of being understood. I’m generally, in context like this, often talking about race and related issues, and often in the context of criminal justice reform. I believe in the necessity of criminal justice reform. I think it’s absolutely essential that we look at ways that we can reform police departments to get to better outcomes. I think it is a travesty when civilians who are engaging with the police in something as routine as a traffic stop for your light being out, or something else, find themselves in a situation where they are staring down the barrel of a gun. This is problematic. It is far worse when you find yourself shot as a consequence of this engagement with the police. I think we all agree on this.
Here’s the part where it starts to get slightly dicey. I think, when I look at the numbers, that there is very little evidence that black people are a unique jeopardy of being shot by the police when we do something other than just look at the demographics of the country, right? Black people are 12.5% of the population overall, but they do make up a much larger share—and this important, this isn’t an excuse, but it’s important to recognize—of stops, and in terms of being victims, and bother perpetrators and victims of violent crimes. When we actually look at police shootings and various other things with respect to that, often times we will find the disparities in outcomes seem to disappear. IE, the probability of getting shot by the police, when you’re stopped by the police, when we control for things like rates of violent crime seem to disappear. There’s no difference between say blacks and whites. In fact, some white guy might be more likely to have something bad happen to him.
Why do I make that point? For me, it seems impractical to take an issue that we all agree is important, and to balkanize it, and to make it something that is of unique interest to a particular community, to attach to it a mantra that is narrowly interested in racial outcomes. To make it an issue where if you disagree with me, you don’t disagree on an approach to fixing this problem. You don’t disagree on whether or not it matters if I survive. I’m sorry, you don’t disagree with it on approach, you disagree on whether or not my life has value and merit. We find ourselves in this country in a time where there is a protest taking place with the NFL. There are players, athletes, coaches at this point, who are taking knees on the field, and there is a president of the United States who is … Doing things that I think are highly inappropriate. It is wrong for the president, either de facto or de jure, to suggest that people should be fired from their jobs for holding a particular point of view. This unequivocal, it’s obvious, I see heads nodding, so we all agree on this point.
I’m not suggesting anything other than that. I do think, however, that if we’re going to have a conversation about criminal justice reform, and if we’re interested in policy, if we’re interested in making changes, then we ought to be interested in the facts as well, and if this isn’t primarily an issue about race, one wonders if taking this issue, criminal justice reform for example, and putting it in that narrow lens is the appropriate thing to do. I’m gonna stop there for a moment and sort of let this go down, and hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to go further down the road, but again I think the folks you’re going to hear from, I’ve had an opportunity to meet for the first time tonight. Reasonable, sane, no one here, I suspect we agree on far more than we disagree, so the notion that anyone would be upset leaving here wouldn’t be surprising to me, but I look forward to chatting, and thank you so much for hearing me out.
TOM SLATER: Thank you so much Kmele. Bryan.
BRYAN STASCAVAGE: Thank you very much to Spiked, and to Rutgers for having us all here. I’d like to start off first by just telling a short story. In the spring of 2011, I was sitting in a palace in Baghdad, Iraq. I was working on the classified newspaper of Iraq. When a coworker sat down next to me and asked me: how would I survive at college? Because he knew how strong my political viewpoints were, but how would I handle hearing an opposing viewpoint. My response to him was, “If Osama Bin Laden taught a class, I’d be the first person to sign up.” That was the worst person I could think of at that time, so translate it to 2017, if Richard Spencer, or Michael Moore, any one of these characters that we deem as radicals, left or right, were to teach a class, I would be the first person to sign up. Not because I was worried that they would convert me, or they would say something that I might agree with, it’s because I disagree with them, but I still want to hear from them… why they’re saying the things that they’re saying.
Now I’m gonna do a little bit of audience interaction and ask a couple of questions. How people here have either read, or listened to, or watched a interview with one of these so called hate groups? How many of you were convinced? How many of you are worried that somebody else might be convinced by those words? How many of you here were convinced? That’s the issue. We have a nation that is afraid. We have a nation is suspicious of each other, but when we actually sit down together, and look around, and see, we can see that these ideologies are not actually propagating, they’re not disseminating. The students that are here … you’re gonna be the leaders. You’re gonna be the managers, you’re gonna be the legal experts, the medical experts, and yet these ideologies are not spreading.
This, I believe, is a problem due to activism. Specifically activist leaders and media pundits. Who are more concerned about winning, either personal, or political power, for their own causes or what not, but it’s creating this dangerous inconsistency where a majority of Americans are not being convinced by these ideas, and yet we are extremely fearful that white supremacy is right around the corner. How is this possible? It’s possible because there’s been a concentration of bad news. I hear people saying Charlottesville.
TOM SLATER: We’re coming out to the audience in a couple of minutes so if you’ll just let Bryan make his point, we’ll come back out very soon.
BRYAN STASCAVAGE: But I look across the left wing and the right wing news, and it’s a concentration of the worst of the worst that each side has to offer. We’re seeing headlines from that Trump supporter that says something bad, or that CBS legal analyst who dismisses the shootings today, or last night. This is the problem. We’re concentrating bad news on both sides, and then we’re evaluating each other based off of these incorrect perceptions. If, as the left has argued, that Islam cannot be criticized because of the actions of a couple of extremists, if we can’t criticize liberal movements for the actions of the GOP baseball shooter, for those people that are saying Charlottesville, this is not the center of gravity. These are the extremists, and it’s being driven by identity politics, which has been eloquently said, balkanized ourselves so that we’re suspicious of each other. This is the issue. Trump supporters by and large that I’ve talked to go to great lengths to say how much they despise white supremacy and white nationalism. Their criticisms of social justice comma identity politics is not an attempt to bring back white supremacy, it’s an idea that there’s a contrarian voice, a critical voice about social justice that can be made without bringing back white supremacy.
It’s about meritocracy. It’s about creating an equality of opportunity, not a quality of outcome. This is what college campuses miss. Especially the activist leaders that are 100% convinced in their views. When you become 100% convinced in your views, that’s when bad things happen. Thank you. Thank you very much.
TOM SLATER: And Sarah.
SARAH HAIDER: Hello. Thank you Tom for the introduction, and I’m really happy to be here. I’m really happy to talk about this. I’m an activist, I’m a writer, I’m a co-founder of an organization called Ex-Muslims of North America, and we’re an organization, which advocates for the exception of religious decent, we promote secular values, and we aim to reduce discrimination faced by those who leave Islam. We’ve been building communities of ex-Muslims, that is to say people who used to be Muslim, but then left the faith and are not atheists or agnostics. We’ve been building communities for them where they can meet each other, they can get to know others like themselves, and build a sort of support and community that they’re really denied within Muslim communities, some of you may know that apostates, people who leave Islam across the world, are in great danger. Often to come out and say that you’re an atheist is a death sentence, and even your own family will be maybe the first to abuse you, or to harm you in such a way.
This is a context that ex Muslims are in right now, and since I’ve started the organization I’ve started to talk a little bit more about the problems within the religion, and I’ve found, and as some people have mentioned, that it seems that there is a little bit of a hypocrisy when it comes to Islam and the way that we talk about women’s rights, and the way we talk about liberal rights, and pluralism and everything, and I was really disheartened because I thought that the people that would be opposing me the most would be religious fundamentalists. That would be religious apologists, the kind of people that would really be the first to stand in line against me, but instead I found that there were far too many people like myself.
I’m a liberal, I’m progressive, I vote democrat, I’m a feminist and I’m proud to be one, and I’ve found that there were people like myself who were instead saying, “Sarah, you’re a hate monger for saying what you’re saying,” and it’s just been very disheartening to see that there has been such a loss of principles when it comes to progressive ideals in general, liberal ideals, feminist ideals, to the extent that I think we favor political narratives, and whatever happens to be politically convenient, more than the hard thing, and the hard thing is to say look, we stand for the rights of Muslims as citizens of the United States, and we will defend their civil liberties, and we will also stand up and say look, there’s certain parts of this region that do not align with human rights, that do not align with modern values and liberal values, and we need to be able to say both those things, and talk about both those issues, and if we were to have that level of courage then I think we wouldn’t see the kind of decay that we’ve seen in political discourse.
I hope that if there’s one thing that we get out of this discussion is that let’s do what we can to reawaken a sense of political courage, and ideological courage, and just talk about principles, and ideologies, and what they mean, and be honest with ourselves and with others. Thank you.
TOM SLATER: Thank you very much Sarah. Mark.
MARK LILLA: Well I guess the thing that distinguishes me a little bit from the rest of the group, apart from my apparent age, is that I’m not so interested in free speech. I’m interested in winning. I’m a liberal. For 30 years the politics of this country have been dominated by an increasingly rabid republican party. This party has been trying, apart from economic issues, and other sorts of things we might talk about, this party has committed itself to rolling back the rights of women to have an abortion, of African Americans to vote, and gay couples to be treated equally. Where is this happening? It’s not happening because we’ve had a republican president, it’s happened because republicans control two thirds of the state legislatures in this country. They control two thirds of the governorships. They control 24 states outright. If they were to win two more state legislatures, they could conceivably call a constitutional convention. If you don’t think that a constitutional convention in the age of Donald Trump is the biggest threat out there for African Americans, women, and gays, you’re dreaming.
The problem for all these groups, and the identity groups, and the people militate for their rights, has to be seizing and holding institutional power. My book, it’s available on Amazon.com, they take Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and I take bitcoin… in the book, the premise of the book is you cannot help anyone in American politics if you do not hold offices. When you hold offices that you can make laws, and especially you can make sure that they get enforced. Because republicans control so much in congress and the state legislatures, we have a constitutional right to abortion in this country. That was a product of the women’s movement. There are places in America where you cannot, or a woman cannot de facto exercise her constitutional right. That’s because of the republican party. There are states now where they’re trying to roll back the voting rights of African Americans. Through gerrymandering, and through fiddling with the opening hours of poll stations. There were states where cities had passed progressive legislation for gays and it’s been overturned by right wing governor and state legislature.
If I’m thinking politically, and I’m worried about these groups, the first thing I want to do is to help the Democratic Party defeat the Republican Party in all of these places. Not fighting the good fight in California, or in Washington DC, or New York City, but fighting the good fight in the middle of the country, which is where power gets determined in this country right now. With swing states, and also states the republicans control. To do that, one needs a message as a party that speaks to everyone in the country. That lays out basic principles and a vision of the country that everyone can see themselves in, and the thesis of the book is that identity politics as currently practiced is preventing liberals, the left, progressives, the Democratic Party, however you want to describe that side, from holding onto institutional power and actually being the change they say they seek.
And how did that happen? There was a time when it was possible to talk about equal rights for these groups, civil rights movement, the women’s movement, gay rights movement, without using the word identity at all. You talked about social justice. Then something happened. The word identity, the concept of identity entered the American language, and politics was no longer a question of being committed to a cause affecting people out there, but became a species of self expression. I am expressing my identity by getting involved in this issue, or that issue, and I’m focused on politics only because of my identity, and the point of that is: I need to speak truth to power. I need to call people out. I’ve got to fight the power. When in fact the point of politics is to be the power.
Identity movements have put themselves into a state of, at the moment, a kind of frenzy that defeats this very practical purpose, and two things happen, and then I’ll be done. One is that a radical rhetoric gets employed that gets in people’s faces in a way that is not helpful. Black Lives Matter, which laid out a call to the conscience of anyone with a conscience in this country, ended up breaking up meetings with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Suicide. But the other point, and this is where we come to free speech, is that if your politics are wrapped up with your definition of your self, it gets very hard to have a political discussion because people feel that in disagreeing with their opinion that you’re challenging their identity, and that’s what’s happened on our campuses. We’re no longer detached enough to argue without feeling that it’s about us, and the big lesson we have to learn it’s not about us. It’s not about how we define ourselves, it’s not about intersectionality, it’s not about my sensitivities, it’s about fighting for justice out there for other people, and to do that you need to retool.
TOM SLATER: Thank you very much Mark. At this point we’re gonna throw it out to audience questions. We have a couple of roaming mics. Put up your hands, roaming mic people, but can I see some hands, who wants to speak? So panel, as I said before I’m gonna take a handful, don’t leap in straight away, I’m gonna grab a few and bring them back. Who’s first. This gentleman here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Before we even get to that, we’re gonna stop this little rhetoric—
TOM SLATER: Actually, this is the point in which you can make your point. If you’d have raised your hand, you could’ve made this question.
KMELE FOSTER: How about you sit down and then just raise your hand and you can have your say.
TOM SLATER: You sit down, you raise your hand, after this gentleman has spoken, you speak, and then we address your question. That’s exactly the way in which we set this up.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How about you listen what I have to say?
TOM SLATER: We gave you an opportunity, take a seat sir. We’ll be with you after this gentleman ’cause he put his hand up first.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Okay, free speech right?
TOM SLATER: Yeah, we want free speech. That means allowing everyone to speak, not just yourself. Take a seat, we’ll take this gentleman question, then we’ll go to you.
KMELE FOSTER: Sounds like you’ll be second, I think that’s pretty cool.
TOM SLATER: Exactly.
KMELE FOSTER: Second is fine, yea?
TOM SLATER: This gentleman here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Those of us who favor free speech have the smartest, most articulate people on our side, as we can see. [Audience Laughter] Yet, we have been on the losing side both on college campuses regarding free speech, and in the country regarding political power. Why?
TOM SLATER: Very good point. I’m now gonna take this gentleman here, who did take a seat.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don’t need a microphone, thank you. How do you expect to embody an identity that you’ve never lived in? Now Kmele, as a black man, you have identified with being a black man most of your life, but how do you de-racialize yourself when you’ve seen the numbers, you know that, I hope that you know, that in the state of New Jersey, black people make up about 12% of the population, yet there’s a 12 to 1 ratio of blacks to whites in prisons. Uh, Bryan—?
AUDIENCE MEMBER (off screen): [Inaudible] of black people make up the prison system.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Why? How do you really say that the left and the right are both equal, but Trumpism started out with Trump saying that all Mexicans are rapists and need to leave this country. So I’m not understanding how you want to dis-identify us when our identities are what kind of make us now, us being black men who are targeted because of the color of our skin. We’re not saying that our blackness has to share the same ideologies, we disagree now on politics and liberalism, I can tell, I’ve seen some of your interviews, that I won’t speak of, but we differ greatly with our ideologies, and that’s not because I’m black and you’re white, we’re both black men. How do we stand with this making college campuses unsafe spaces, how can any of you, how can anybody in this room truly be fine with becoming an unsafe space, the notion of unsafe should not enter anybody’s mind.
TOM SLATER: Thank you very much. I think at this point I want to bring some more people.
TOM SLATER: No actually, you’re not running this meeting, so I’m gonna take some more questions. Who else wants to speak? We’ll have one over here, yes. That’s exactly how this is working, can we get a microphone to this lady.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My comment is based off of—no, I’m fine, thank you [refuses microphone]. I don’t need it, I think I’m loud. You talked about identity movement, and … America is built off the backbone of slaves, correct? This country, the entire, like—everyone has their own identities. The fact that we have Columbus day is because other white people felt the need to have their own identity. The reason that people are so mad at alternatives like affirmative action is because white people see—an example let’s say [Inaudible/Crosstalk] right.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: [Inaudible/Crosstalk]
AUDIENCE MEMBER: More white women benefit from affirmative action than black women, than any black people in the entire country, but a black child who has the same grades, GPA, SAT scores as another white child will then be looked at, if he gets picked into the school, they’ll say it’s affirmative action, but no one says anything about the 60% of students that have a guaranteed spot to go to that school because their parents went there. Everybody has their own identities, and the best way that people benefit from is having other people as “the other.” When there there’s an “other,” other people benefit. But we can’t sit here and pretend that if we throw away all our identities, it’ll make a difference. I’m Pentecostal, I’m Haitian, my parents are immigrants, but I still have to identity with the fact that I’m a black woman living in American and I have certain privileges. For the fact that I’m a straight black woman in America, I do not face the same consequences that cisgendered women in this country face. I do not feel like the same pain that other people like Muslim women in this country feel, because I’m Pentecostal.
You have no right if you are not a part of that religion to look at someone else and tell them that they are oppressed, it is not your place, to tell someone in their own religion that they are oppressed.
TOM SLATER: Thank you very much. Point well made. If there’s no one else, anymore, anymore at this point. There’s one there just right next to you, and then we’ll bring it back. Yes, hi.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I guess my question slash statement is how can we say it’s not about intersectionality or about identities when for certain people they don’t have the privilege of just turning their identity off. I can’t turn off the fact that I’m black, I live in this body every day. So I feel like to tell people that it’s not about their identity, they have to separate that aspect of it from their emotions and how they feel about things, almost is like telling someone to ignore their life experiences, because ultimately that’s what they’re experiencing every single day in that body, in that color skin, in that gender, in that sexuality—regardless not necessarily identity is visible, but in terms of people who have visible identity it’s very hard to tell them, or expect them to erase that identity, or separate that from the way that they view certain politics or experiences, because honestly that’s like telling somebody that they didn’t experience what they did experience. If I experienced racism today, and it was based strictly on my race, I can’t sit tomorrow and say racism is a problem, but I’m saying this not because I’m black. I don’t know, I just feel like it’s very hard to separate identity from politics when people are forcibly within their identities.
TOM SLATER: Thank you very much. I’m gonna come back out guys, but right now there’s plenty there so I want to bring back our panel on it. So Kmele, do you wanna kick us off? Respond to anything you’ve heard or any questions. Particularly posed at you.
KMELE FOSTER: It’s very challenging to have a conversation like this, there’s a lot of threads that have been opened, and I’ll try to be both succinct, and sort of broadly responsive to the things that have been raised here. I think one of the fundamental challenges that we have in this country is that while we all agree on the value of free speech, in a very metaphysical sense we talk about it in the same high-sounding language, but we don’t mean the same thing when we talk about free speech. I don’t know that most of us really have an appreciation for what speech protections are for, and what they ought to be accomplishing. The notion that, for example, hate speech is not free speech is wrong.
Hate speech is in fact protected speech. In fact, hate speech, legally speaking, is not a thing in the United States of America. It’s not a category of thing, it is in fact incredibly difficult to get people to agree on what hate speech is, and I think this an important distinction to make because for so many years in this country, and I’m pointing to the 1960’s in particular, speech protections were used by minority groups who were fighting for civil rights, and it was essential for them to be able to secure those rights in order to advocate. The reason why Martin Luther King for example wrote his letter from a Birmingham jail is because he was imprisoned for, effectively, violating speech codes. Handing out fliers in the wrong spot. All of these various things. I think this is something that we don’t necessarily understand.
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): Black lives matter! Black lives matter!
GROUP OF AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Black lives matter! Black lives matter!
KMELE FOSTER: This is interesting, let’s give them a second.
GROUP OF AUDIENCE MEMBER: Black lives matter!
KMELE FOSTER: Has anyone disagreed with that? Has anyone disagreed with that principle? Have you ever gone some place and had someone scream black lives matter and had someone respond with that’s not true?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, quite a few times.
They said that’s not true? Well guess what, none of those—no, no, no, check this out.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: When you say all lives matter you discredit the fact that black lives matter.
KMELE FOSTER: Can I finish?
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): Yea like for real, I am with everyone trying to respect freedom of speech, there are some people here—this is an opportunity for us to really educate ourselves on what’s going on in reality. And I’m going to let the panelists speak, but after the panelists speak there is something that I need to say, because when we talk about identity, we need to understand that this country was formed off of creating whiteness and separating blackness, so we can’t separate—no, no, no, no—we cannot separate our identity from politics.
TOM SLATER: This is what’s gonna happen, Kmele’s gonna finish his point, we’re gonna go down the panel.
KMELE FOSTER: We’re gonna come back.
TOM SLATER: We’re coming back, let him make his point.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: [Inaudible]—history, I don’t need you to say that black people are dying, I don’t need statistics to say that black people are dying.
KMELE FOSTER: Do facts matter? [Crosstalk] … Do facts matter?
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): Yes they matter! [Inaudible]
TOM SLATER: Hey, hey, hey. This is how this works. If people shout, no one gets things correct.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Who controls the facts? It’s the system. It’s the institutions. Don’t tell me about facts, I don’t need no facts to tell me that I’m in a state of oppression because the state, and I don’t need no Republican or no Democrat to help me from my freedom. ‘Cause [Inaudible] Hillary Clinton [Inaudible] massive amounts of incarceration. It’s capitalism why our people are oppressed. [Inaudible/Crosstalk]
TOM SLATER: That’s a whole ‘nother topic. How about at this: at point we let Kmele finish his point.
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): [Inaudible]
KMELE FOSTER: Can I respond to that?
TOM SLATER: We go down the panel, and then we come back out.
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): [Inaudible]
TOM SLATER: The more you shout, the less everyone in this room has an opportunity to make their point, and to listen to everyone else.
[Applause] I’m sure you do, I’d value what you were saying if he’d put his hand up.
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): It is colonialism! That’s what it is!
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): It’s colonialism! That’s what it is! It is the fact that you have group of people control over another group of people. It has nothing to do with anything y’all saying up there. ‘Cause what I heard was this constant thing [Inaudible/Crosstalk].
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you sir, I agree with that. I’m done.
KMELE FOSTER: I wonder about the specific point that I’ve made that one might dispute, with respect to the data on police shootings for example, and I wonder about that because it seems odd to me for one to invest themselves in a concept that they agree has been contrived, and invented, right? I suspect most of the people here would not be particularly excited if Richard Spencer was to walk into the room, and you might not really want him to come here and talk, because were he to talk about race, he would talk about the fact that it’s a source of pride, the fact that he believes it’s a source of power, the fact that he believes that his race is beautiful, the fact that one can make those claims about whiteness and one can immediately recognize just how retrograde and backwards it is to talk about race in that way, and that one can make the same claims about some other race, and not recognize how retrograde those ideas are. What’s retrograde isn’t the embrace of whiteness, it’s the embrace of race.
I care about the things that you care about. There’s not a person in this room that thinks people should be dying unnecessarily. I care about mass incarceration, I think it’s deeply problematic, but I also know that if the United States of America were to release every brown and black person from prison today, federal and state—
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): [Inaudble]
KMELE FOSTER: Can I finish my point?
TOM SLATER: We’re gonna go—
KMELE FOSTER: If they were to release them all, the United States would still be, and I’ve made this point in a room full of conservative leaders, making it important for them to get it, that if they were to all be released from jail, the United States would still be 5th or 6th in the world in terms of its rate of incarceration. That’s problematic. If we want to fix this problem, talking about it narrowly in terms of race is not going to help us get to solutions. We’ve been doing that for 3 or 4 years now while Black Lives Matter has been very active since Ferguson, talk to me about the federal reforms that have been achieved. There aren’t any. That’s problematic. I want to fix these problems too. My concern is that disrupting conversations like this makes it harder for us to solve those problems.
TOM SLATER: So Bryan, respond to anything you’ve heard.
BRYAN STASCAVAGE: Black lives do matter, that is why I wrote the article. I study political movements as my job, as an intel analyst. My job is to look into the group, diagnose its strengths and weaknesses, and at my old job it was to defeat it. My new purpose is to try to help these groups out, especially the ones in the United States, and if you read the article you would realize that my support for the movement is front and center. I’ve worked with police, I’ve gone on ride-alongs with them, I’ve seen the world through their eyes, and I’ve asked them what about the effects of Black Lives Matter? And they almost always say the same thing. They’ve got good ideas, but when we start saying listen, we don’t think this one will work, conversation over. People stand up and start screaming. Black lives do matter, but my criticism of the movement was to try to help it so it could be more effective, which means distancing itself from extremist type rhetoric. Extremist actions, and the prediction that I put in there was that if the Black Lives Matter leaders did not do this, did not distance themselves the extremists, did not remove the leaders that were extremist, that their image as a whole would suffer, and look what happened.
Dallas happened. The Dallas shooter had nothing to do with Black Lives Matter. Nothing to do with that movement. How did it get put on it?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Conservative propaganda. {Laughter]
BRYAN STASCAVAGE: If the movement had a strong anti-violence, pro-working, pro-ideas—it would be in a much better place.
TOM SLATER: Thank you Bryan. Now we’re gonna go to Sarah first who’s been waiting very patiently, and then we’re gonna go to Mark, then we’re gonna come back out. Sarah, please.
SARAH HAIDER: I don’t have too much to say about Black Lives Matter in particular, but I will talk about generally identity politics. I’m not, I guess it depends on how we identify identity politics, but I don’t think movements based on identity are necessarily corrosive or destructive. To dialogue, we know about in Civil Rights movements that have been beneficial in many ways, in feminist movements that have been beneficial in many ways, I think when identity movements go wrong is when they make claims such as only I can know this thing, and you as somebody who doesn’t share identity have no right to talk about it with me, or to challenge my opinion, and of course that isn’t to say that experience doesn’t matter.
Experience is extremely important and we learn things from other people’s experiences, particularly from minorities, and people who are oppressed, historically when we hear them we realize okay, we’ll I’ve been trapped in my own mind, but now I know that this issue exists and now I can focus on it and pay attention to it, but that is empathy, that is sympathy, that is progress. That’s how you move forward, is that you have these conversations, and you hope that you can reach this person, and you don’t say I have exclusive rights to this knowledge that no one can share, that no one can know, because if that was the case, we wouldn’t be able to build coalitions.
We’ve been able to move past a lot of retrograde ideas. We no longer think that women are unequal to men in many ways, and Western society is not perfect, but it’s much better than it was, and how did it get here? It got here because feminists were able to talk to people that were men, that didn’t have that experience and say look, here are my concerns, and here’s what’s going on, and some men, many men now, were able to say okay, I understand what that means, I don’t have that experience, but I understand what that means.
So experience absolutely has a role, but it can’t be the end of the conversation, because if it is the end of the conversation then there is no conversation. There is no coalition, and that is the death of progress. So if we want to move towards racial progress and end this injustice, and a lot of the points that were raised I agree with, I think that absolutely terrible the way that blacks have been treated throughout American history, and it’s absolutely a stain on this country that we still bare, but hey, how do we move forward? What is the best way to move forward is the question that we should be thinking about, and one woman did mention a little bit, she threw out that who am I, or who is anybody to say to a woman wearing the hijab, or a Muslim woman, she didn’t say hijab, but a Muslim woman that she is oppressed.
I’m not telling any woman that she is oppressed. I know that when I was Muslim, if someone had told me that I’m oppressed and that I just don’t understand my religion, I would’ve flipped them off, and I would’ve said how dare you, because I would’ve found that to be incredibly insulting. So I don’t think that’s the way that you proceed, but here is the reality with the way that the religion works. There are passages in the scripture that make it very clear that women have an unequal space with men. There is a verse in the Quran that says a husband has the right to discipline his wife.
There is no right for the wife to discipline a husband, there’s just a husband has that right, and the verse just on it’s own, forget about whether someone feels empowered by it, or oppressed by it, the verse on it’s own is misogynist. The verse on it’s own is sexist. So if we’re going to have conversation about what we need to do with this religion, we need to honestly recognize that that exists, because throughout the Muslim history and across the Muslim world, women’s rights are nowhere near where they should be, and the first people to stand up against women’s rights, and against women’s empowerment are religious conservatives, and that’s a reality and we have to be able to talk about that.
TOM SLATER: Thank you very much, Sarah. Mark.
MARK LILLA: I’m old enough… to remember the politics of the late 60’s and early 70’s, and I can tell you how this movie ends. This movie ends with you accomplishing nothing, because the only thing that makes America change is power. It’s not about how you define yourself, how you define your experience, or any of that. If you want to protect yourself as a group, you must have power, and you can not have power alone. That means you needs allies, and that means you have to find a way of speaking, as Sarah was just saying, that builds bridges. You can not tell people simultaneously, “you must understand me” and “you cannot understand me.” You must become more political creatures. You can talk about racial justice, social justice, gender justice, without mentioning your identity. I don’t give a damn about how you define yourself. I want you as an ally to fight in the fight. It’s not about you, it’s not about me and how I define myself, it’s about a fight out there, so let’s just grow up and start fighting.
TOM SLATER: Thank you Mark. So, let’s take some more questions. Where are the roaming mics so I can see. There’s a gentleman with his hand up there.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How’s it going. So Mr. Stascavage, you said in the beginning you had three questions. Being like, are you worried that people are radicals, how many of you are radicals, and then are you scared of radicals coming forth, and most of us said we weren’t scared of radicals coming forth, and I didn’t raise my hand either, and I find that to be a mistake. Because then I heard Professor Lilla talk, and at first he said I’m not interested in free speech, and I’m sure he did that to be provocative and sexy and everything, and then he comes forth and uses the classic, liberal buzzwords: women, gay people, and black people, and … As a professor, he’s in a position of power, he is the one that I’m worried about affecting the minds of young people coming to their college and looking to develop their political ideals, and having him as their authority with these radical ideals that screw … half the—I’m sorry. Screw conservatives, screw the two thirds of the governors, you said 24 states are conservative. That means 26 of them, more than likely, are democratic, is that so?
MARK LILLA: Democrats control 7 states.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Okay, I apologize for my ignorance. If you see the rise of the anti fascist movement, Mr. Stascavage, it’s because there’s something feeding into this, and as you’ve seen, it’s grown even. A lot of it, I feel, comes from there’s someone older in power telling these empty, blank slate minds that it’s okay to be violent to gain power, to gain political means.
TOM SLATER: I think we’ve got the point. Thank you very much. Let’s come down here, there’s just a bloke in the middle over there with a purple shirt on.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. I think I might try to distill some of the things people said tonight, into an interesting question. I agree with Mr. Lilla that identity politics hasn’t worked for democrats or liberals, but there is a place where it has worked. It’s worked in white identity politics, and I’m curious why it is that liberal identity politics has failed in this country, and yet we have a president and political party that can rally people around that type of identity politics, and what do we do about that?
TOM SLATER: Thank you very much. So I’m gonna take this lady here, this gentleman here, and then we’ll come back. We will come back out again.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, my question is to Sarah. I follow you on Facebook and I repost a lot of the things, I mean I don’t know if you’re writing all the stuff, but I know it’s got your stamp of approval. I’m very interested, I’m reading Douglass Murray’s book, and I’m a book fan of Maajid Nawaz, the whole thing. I’m questioning a couple different things, and I’ll make it brief. One is I think that the American experience of the Muslim community is very different than what’s going on in Europe, am I correct in saying that? In general? I just want to sort of … Get your, sort of, take on that, and I guess also there’s a sort of gray area, which I think really connects to this identity politics thing we’re talking about, there’s a sort of gray area where if you criticize Islam, everyone says you’re an Islamophobic, your anti-Muslim, and it comes down to it you really can’t criticize an idea, and there’s this gray area where people say, but you know my next-door neighbors that are Muslims they don’t want to kill, how do you deal with that gray area. Is it just sheer numbers that the people who are Islamists are a larger percentage, I would just like to hear your standard thing that you say about this because I think it’s very interesting.
TOM SLATER: Thank you for that, and Joe would you just pass to this gentleman here and we’ll come back. We will come back out.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Just something I want to say quickly about, it’s a statement you guys can touch on it just about identity politics. Looking at the world in all social phenomenon strictly through a racial prism I think engenders a certain type of myopia. I’m a Puerto Rican guy from the Bronx raised in a single parent household, and it’s like, but what does that mean? Should I think a certain way because of that? I don’t, and people like diversity as a thing, diversity is a thing that we all speak of. It’s a value. How many people care about idea diversity? I wonder how many protesters here have read Thomas Sowell, or John McWhorter, or Jason Riley, but read it openly—to receive it. So it’s just something I wonder about, why would you want to build an ideological prison around yourself? And I’ve heard people say that they can’t disconnect from identity, and I fear that they wouldn’t have it any other way.
TOM SLATER: Thank you very much. We’ll bring the camera backup to this point. Just get things off, let’s mix it up a little bit. Sarah, do you want to respond to the question that was put to you.
SARAH HAIDER: Sure. Well there’s a lot there, so I’m just gonna generally touch on some of the issues that I think are really important when it comes to immersion of Muslim populations. There is a difference between the European Muslims generally speaking and American Muslims. American Muslims are much better integrated, they’re much more educated, they’re much more likely to support liberal values, they may be the most liberal Muslims in the world. So there’s something that we’re doing right here. Some of that might just be the kinds of people that are coming in. American system of immigration has been different, we accept less refugees, less low skilled migrants than Europeans do, so you’ll have the Pakistani doctors that’ll come to America, but perhaps that won’t be the case in other countries, or you’re more likely to be able to get in. So that’s a huge part of it, there’s a certain kind of person that’s just coming in.
Then there’s the idea that American society is a melting pot. I think my European friends just bristle a little bit when I talk about this, but I do think that the approach to immigration has to entail that when someone’s coming into this country, they have an opportunity to be fully American. Not American with just a little bit different kind of a citizen, but the same kind of citizen, and this is why it’s so important to stand up for civil liberties of Muslims. That is to say that Muslims can and should be able to talk about their religion, they can and should be able to express their rights, their outrage, and share that with everyone, and they should be treated like all the other citizens because that helps them feel like they’re a part of this nation, and that their destiny is tied to ours, and that this is really a project that we have to take together, that’s a very important feeling.
Just historically, the way that immigration happened in Europe where so many of them were migrants, and so there was this idea that they’re gonna come in and then they’re gonna leave, it’s gonna be a guest worker thing, so there was always a little bit of an idea that they’re not here to stay. So that’s part of it, at least in England, but I think overall you have to be able to look at citizenship as something that anyone can achieve fully. Anyone can be 100% American, including Muslim Americans, and that’s a very important feeling and I think that changes the way that you feel about your duty towards the country, and that affects the way that you might be walking towards a more radical way of looking.
TOM SLATER: Thanks Sarah, and Mark I was wondering if you might address the question from the back as far as is it liberal professors who are can of feeding this climate.
MARK LILLA: Well yeah, well I wanna put that in connection with the other question, right, because what I felt, correct me if I’m wrong, behind the young man’s comment was that … Why are you focusing on all of these groups and leaving everyone else out. What about everyone else who aren’t part of these special groups that liberals say they care about … And that can lead to a kind of frustration and resentment, and that is what, I’m not talking about you at all, but that is the kind of thing that feeds a racism that’s already there and turns it into a kind of white nationalism that you’ve seen in places like Charlotte. It feeds the machine. Why? Because it feeds a picture of the world, and picture of this country of groups simply being set against each other, and that works for them, it does not work for us. That’s the lesson to be learned. These kind of appeals work for them. They cost us, and we need to think about tactically, strategically, what to talk about, how, and when.
Does that mean we’re gonna be able to say everything that we feel in our hearts? Not if we wanna win. Are there venues for that, right, but that’s precisely why in the book I talk about why it’s important to pull … Let’s say the white working class that feel some of this resentment. I grew up around a lot of these people, I grew up a mile away from Eminem in Detroit, and I remember the first day I hear the N-word. It was July 23rd, 1967. When the day after the Detroit riots started, and there were kids across the street who started walking up and down in front of the house with baseball bats saying, “We’re just waiting for the Niggers,” and I never heard the word, and I asked my mother what it meant, and she got furious with me for using it.
I know what people like that can be like, and there’s got to be a way to talk about what we share as citizens, the principles we share where everyone can see themselves in it so we don’t sink to this level, and so if our strategy is to actually take power. I want to give Steve Bannon a bad day every day. I don’t want us making his lunch for him, which is what he says we’re doing by focusing so much, and using on real social problems in terms of identity. I want him to have a bad day, I want to get him out of power. Him and his people.
Well how practically do you do that? Once you start talking about that and thinking hard, your tactics are gonna change.
TOM SLATER: Thank you Mark. No, hold on. Kmele, if you want to respond to anything you’ve heard.
KMELE FOSTER: This’ll probably be the most unpopular thing I say all evening, so I’m gonna double down and perhaps say two unpopular things. First of all, I’m not a progressive, I’m also not a conservative. My politics are decidedly Libertarian. I believe in really kooky things like legalizing all drugs, and not locking people in cages for voluntary deciding to use drugs, or to hire a prostitute, or whatever else. I’m glad that’s a popular idea. I don’t know that identity politics don’t work, I don’t have a perspective on that. I do know that they tend to obscure a lot of the important underlying phenomena that we are trying to discuss. If for example, when I talk about mass incarceration, it is surprising to you to discover that letting all of the black people and the latino people out of cages in this country, getting them out of state and federal prisons would still make the United States a world leader in incarceration. You haven’t been thinking about this problem that you claim to care about in the appropriate way.
If for example when I suggest to you that the police aren’t over-killing black people relative to certain metrics, again, you’re not thinking about this problem deeply enough, so you’re not talking about solutions in a constructive and sane way. If you’re smirking once I say something like that, if it’s immediately outrageous to you that I would suggest these things, then again, to have an ally who routinely talks to conservatives, and is routinely advocating for reform, and for change, to not recognize that the Charles Koch organization was one of the first national organizations working on criminal justice reform. Again, you’re thinking about this in the wrong way. One of the first sort of prominent ones in recent years during the Obama administration.
The last point I’ll make is about the Trump administration, and this is going to be deeply unpopular here. White lash, racial resentment as an explanation for how we got to the Trump administration. I don’t know if that washes, and the reason I don’t know if it washes is because I don’t see it in the exit polling data. The fact that white people voted for Barack Obama twice and then decided to vote for Donald Trump doesn’t suggest to me that the reason they voted for him is racial resentment. I have never seen an exit poll that says that’s why they voted for him. One can choose to vote for a candidate for any number of reasons, I suspect that people who voted for George W Bush for example the second time didn’t do it because they thought, well he lied about weapons of mass destruction and I really love that.
One can invent a narrative that makes the people who disagree with them the most despicable human beings on Earth, that doesn’t mean that narrative is true. It’s interesting that minority groups, Latinos and blacks, voted for this horrible, despicable racist Donald Trump in greater numbers than they had percentage wise for any recent republican candidate. This seems important. If these things are true, then perhaps that particular factoid, which at this point is received wisdom, it is gospel truth, when actually what we’re doing is we’re taking a particular belief that we have about other people’s beliefs, and we have concretized it, we have turned it into a physical object. It is this talismanic thing that we know, we don’t even have to debate it, and I asked repeatedly in various contexts, bright people who talk about politics on a regular basis, what are you latching on to, Van Jones, when on the night of the election having seen zero exit polls you say well what happened is a “white lash.” Maybe, but you’ll have to show me the evidence.
TOM SLATER: Thank you Kmele. And Bryan, hold on. Can we go back down for the final points in a second, but first we’ll hear from Bryan.
BRYAN STASCAVAGE: So to answer your question about antifa, or ANTIFA, or however to explain it, I’ve talked to, I’ve actually debated a professor who was an acknowledged anarchist. It was at a community college in Connecticut. This individual actually was a professor of one the quote-unquote elite liberal art schools in New England. There’s a couple of secrets about professors. One, they’re terrible debaters for the most part. And two, if you stand up to them and you argue back with them, it’s a learning experience. This particular professor went through the whole gambit of calling me a Nazi, and a racist, and all these things, and I looked at him square in the eye and I said, “The difference between you and me is that you wanna force people to your beliefs, I’m trying to convince them,” and he had no response to that. And that’s what it comes down to. In terms of diversity in opinion, that is a great point.
There’s a funny thing that happened from the 1970’s to today, which is the share of professors at university’s, especially elite universities who are conservative versus liberal, and this is what happened. The diversity movement out of the 70′ came forward and said we need to have more diversity at campus. More diversity of backgrounds, and universities were like, that’s a good idea. If we fast forward from the 1970’s when conservative professors are about 40 to 35% of the campus, to today, in elite New England schools it’s at a 28 to 1 ratio. What happened? Universities more than likely waited for the conservative professors to retire, and replaced them with white women. And a couple of diverse candidates. Now you have campuses that are almost 100% one ideological point of view, and you wonder why these echo chambers are pumping out crazies.
TOM SLATER: Thank you Bryan.
SARAH HAIDER: Can I add something?
TOM SLATER: We’ve got very, very little time left, I’m gonna grab three points on the floor, then I’m gonna bring it back for final points. I want 3 people who haven’t spoken before, and I see there’s a lady with her hand up in the back there with hand up, glasses, just there. I’m too English for this, I’m sorry.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m not interested in microaggressions, I am interested in macro-aggressions, and what people are responding to in this room is structural inequality and institutional racism. When you say Kmele that race is, I’m sorry, is an invention that’s true, it is inventive, but it doesn’t make it any less real. Wednesday is also a social creation, and 9 AM is a social creation, but if I don’t show up at work at 9 AM on Wednesday, I would be fired and that too is very real.
TOM SLATER: I think that’s a really strong point, I just… [Crosstalk]
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, no, no, no, no. I am the single organizer of the faculty of this campus, I’ll say something about structural inequality and racism.
TOM SLATER: Briefly please.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: 3.9% of the tenure track faculty, which is to say the people who actually have academic freedom, are black, in a state where well over 13-14% are black, and yet the people who are adjuncts here, who are paid like lettuce pickers, $5,000 a class who have no access to health insurance, and where there is no academic freedom, that is where you have people of color well overrepresented in their numbers. You have 2.6% latino faculty who are tenure-track who have have any kind of protections. I am not here to defend the Democrats or the Republicans, they at bipartisan level and have forced it upon us, this absolute exchange of wealth from working class people to the rich, and what people are responding to is imperialism, what people are responding to is the fact that 40% of black children in this country live in poverty, we are responding to the fact that you feel comfortable [Inaudible].
TOM SLATER: A point well made. Point well made. No—I want to get two more people in. There is a gentleman over here who’s had his hand up for a very long time and has been very patient, thank you. Please let this gentleman speak.
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): People are responding to real racism, real class inequality, real misogyny—
TOM SLATER: Please let this gentleman speak.
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting)—not a week goes by without a black trans woman in this country getting killed. [Applause]
TOM SLATER: Let’s hear from this gentleman, and then we’re gonna come back.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question is directed at Bryan and Kmelle? Kmele. Sorry.
KMELE FOSTER: Kmele, just like the girl’s name.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My questions are directed to you guys. Racial inequality exists in the United States. We all know the statistics about the criminal justice system, education outcomes, and housing. We may disagree about how much is about culture and personally responsibility, but obviously some of this inequality is explained by prejudice, and actually a survey by the General Social—basically called the general social survey, from the University of Chicago, found that 28% of white Americans would support an individual homeowner’s right to discriminate on the basis of race. That’s 28% of white Americans, and again this is the general social survey from the University of Chicago. So my question is, how can anyone on this panel say that identity shouldn’t matter, when people are treated differently in America based on these identities.
TOM SLATER: I’m gonna bring this back to the panel now ’cause we’re fast running out of time, and these gentleman from the police here will shut me up as soon as we run over. I’m now gonna bring the panel in for your final points, just take a minute or two. Just offer a final thought for our audience here, and then we shall close. So I’m gonna go down the lines, Mark if you would like to go first.
MARK LILLA: I haven’t’ heard a single person in the room tell me how you can change the power structure of this country if you do not win elections.
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): We have to protest! [Inaudible]
MARK LILLA: Protest will not do it, no one is listening to you, no one is listening to you in these red states. You are the only way a protest works, is if you have people susceptible to your protest, and those are Democrats, they are not Republicans, they do not care about you. [Crosstalk] Then you’re useless. Then you will be thinking that the word historical struggles are the struggles of teaching assistants at Rutgers. We’re talking about, if you’re serious about structural racism in this country [Audience Shouting], you want to seize power, it’s the only way to do it. Welcome to the NFL, this is how it works. You are just expressing your impotence, you have a way of taking all this energy, all this energy and actually take back one state. If you could take back one state from the Republicans and make them stop taking away the rights of black people to vote, that would be an accomplishment, go and do it.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: [Inaudible/Crosstalk]
TOM SLATER: Hold on.
MARK LILLA: You are not telling me how you’re gonna take power.
TOM SLATER: This argument can continue in the bar afterward. First of all, I want to hear the final points from our panel. Thank you. Please take a seat sir. Please take a seat, thank you, thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER (shouting): [Inaudible]
TOM SLATER: Hold on—
MARK LILLA: Are you telling me that there is no difference in the laws in those states where a woman can’t get an abortion and black people are finding it hard to vote, no difference in those than California, New York, you’re dreaming man. You’re dreaming.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS (shouting): [Inaudible]
TOM SLATER: Please, both of you, please take a seat. We are very close to the end of this meeting and I’m very desperate for a drink, please. Take a seat and we can move on. Take a seat, please. Gents. I want to hear what our panel has to say, and then we’re gonna close. [Audience Shouting] We’ve heard from both of you. We’ve had plenty of time for that. You’ve made your point, you’ve made your point. [Audience Shouting] I want to hear 3 points from these guys, and then we’re going to stop. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. We have listened, this is the thing. [Audience Shouting] No one can listen when everyone’s shouting, that’s what I’m saying. No one can listen. Alright, here’s what I wanna do. How about this, how about this, how about this. We gave as many as we possibly could, so now I’m going to go to Sarah for a final point, and hopefully I think the people will be considerate enough to hear her speak, and then we can carry on this argument in other formats afterward. Sarah. Please.
SARAH HAIDER: I’ll just say one more thing, I agreed with everything Mark had to say, which is not that none of those injustices exist, of course they exist, I agree they exist, but how are you going to solve the problem. What are you going to do, just riot your way to the White House? That’s not how it works, or protest your way to the White House, that’s not how it works. You’ve got to change someone’s mind, you’ve gotta get them to see your point of view. I already see your point of view, but other people don’t, so how are you going to reach them?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS (shouting): [Inaudible]
TOM SLATER: Listen to her, please.
SARAH HAIDER: That has to be a question that you have to consider otherwise he’s right, you won’t win, and then we’ll have more Trump.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS (shouting): [Inaudible]
TOM SLATER: Thank you Sarah.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS (shouting): [Inaudible]
SARAH HAIDER: So what is your solution. What’s your solution. What is your solution.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS (shouting): [Inaudible]
TOM SLATER: Now, now.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS (shouting): [Inaudible]
SARAH HAIDER: How does that change? This is a democracy.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS (shouting): [Inaudible]
AUDIENCE MEMBERS (shouting): [Inaudible]
SARAH HAIDER: How does that change the vote?
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TOM SLATER: Please. Please. We are so, so close to being out of here. I want to hear Bryan’s final point. I’m enjoying it, but I also enjoy actually being able to hear people, so I’m gonna go. Sarah, you’ve got nothing else you want to say, you’ve made your point. Bryan, please. Your final thoughts please. If we just listen a couple of seconds, thank you.
BRYAN STASCAVAGE: Democrats. Democrats are in for a rude awakening in 2018, aren’t they. The divisions in the party, quite apparent. That being said, it’s not that identity does not matter, it’s not that we don’t recognize that racism is an issue, or that bigotry is an issue, the difference is simply about how to solve the problem. That’s it.
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TOM SLATER: Thank you Bryan.
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SARAH HAIDER: What are you doing?
TOM SLATER: Kmele, take us out.
KMELE FOSTER: One of the remarkable—
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TOM SLATER: Hold on, hold on.
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SARAH HAIDER: Protesting is not enough.
KMELE FOSTER: One of the remarkable things that’s happened to me in the last couple of weeks is I’ve hard the opportunity to talk to a gentleman by the name of Michael Bell. Michael Bell Sr lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin, his son Michael Bell Jr was shot to death by the Kenosha, Wisconsin police. He was shot to death in front of his home with his mother and his sister watching. Michael Bell had blonde hair. This was 8 to 10 years before Mike Brown was shot in Ferguson. Michael Bell is a remarkable human being, I hope you’ll go look for his piece in the New York Times after this, just google his name and you’ll find it. What’s remarkable about Michael Bell is he is not a man who today is filled with resentment who believes that all police officers are terrible or awful.
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KMELE FOSTER: You know who Michael Bell is? I’m sorry. No, no. Michael Bell Sr is alive, his son Michael Bell Jr was shot to death by the Kenosha, Wisconsin police.
That was the beginning of what I said, you probably missed it because there was a lot of stuff going on here. I’m actually proceeding to a point if you’ll allow. We’re almost done, I’ll hang around for a little bit afterwards. The thing that is so amazing about Michael Bell’s story is that Michael Bell’s father was an aviation engineer. What he was astonished by was that after the shooting, within about 48 hours the police had largely cleared themselves. What he discovered is what any of you might discover if you dare to look, that the police often are responsible for investigating themselves after something like this takes place.
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KMELE FOSTER: Michael Bell’s father was successful in getting a first in the nation law passed requiring that in Wisconsin when these things happen, they will be investigated by outside organizations. That has happened in the last 12 months. His son was killed well over a decade ago.
It took a decade of work to do this. He said the reason why this is so important to him is because he wants to ensure that no family has to endure this again. Here’s my charge to you. Focus on policies that work and get results for the specific things that you’re interested in.
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KMELE FOSTER: What did I just—this is so weird…
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KMELE FOSTER: I think that working on particular issues of consequence is a real opportunity for us, and think Michael Bell Sr has the right idea. Getting that law passed is the right thing to do, and I think it’s the sort of thing that one could replicate all across the country. [Applause]
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TOM SLATER: If we could have a round of applause for all of our speakers please. Thank you all so much, please come and speak to us again with Spiked, with Spiked US, doing the Unsafe Space Tour, tell us what you think. Our friends at the IHS are interested. So please do that, and of course some of the speakers will be hanging around if you want to have a chat with them afterwards. Thank you so much everyone.