There are a few speakers that seem guaranteed to draw a receptive Oberlin audience. A revolutionary civil rights worker who mobilized thousands and rewrote protest tactics would seem a good bet. Unless, of course, the same man has articulated a vicious anti-Zionist platform.
Kwame Ture brought his message to Oberlin on Monday. His visit was met with a host of controversy. Protesters distributed fliers detailing Ture's anti-Semitic attacks and a number of students at Ture's lecture on Zionism rose and turned their backs to the speaker.
That's exactly what should happen in response to a speaker such as Ture. Ture's words are hateful, inflammatory and offensive. His rhetoric is often illogical and inconsistent. As educated people, it would be irresponsible to blindly accept Ture's message. Indeed, Ture's visit here provoked such anger that many people suggested he should have been denied the opportunity to speak.
That's something that should never happen. Demands for campus debate are absolutely empty unless more than one point of view can find a voice. And of course, Ture's voice is not an unimportant one. Stokley Carmichaels' work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee helped define a movement that clearly inspired the students who turned their backs on Kwame Ture and he's been important in his efforts to unite African people worldwide. Now his tune has changed. Rather than attacking American institutions, Ture has turned his attentions to Zionism.
Ture has attacked Zionism with a vengeance. Yet the discussions which have erupted in the wake of Ture's appearance are exactly the discussions that Oberlin students discuss and never actually have. Perhaps it was an error to invite somebody as virulently anti-Semitic as Ture to campus, but the discussions that have followed the speeches have been enlightening as well as painful. Because of Ture, we've had just the kind of talks we've needed to have.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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