LATROBE, Pa. — Dr. David Azerrad was a controversial guest speaker who came to guest lecture at Saint Vincent College last week. The title of his speech was: Black Privilege and Racial Hysteria in Contemporary America.
Azerrad told the audience that the real color of visible privilege in America today is Black. He began his speech by saying he believed Kamala Harris wouldn’t be vice president if she weren’t a woman of color in the time of George Floyd.
The outrage quickly boiled over on campus and in the community.
“I couldn’t even believe the college would allow the individual to speak there once they knew the topic,” a former student shared.
Troy White Smith is a Saint Vincent graduate and said it was disheartening to see the college he once loved welcome this kind of hate. He said this would have never stood when he was a student.
“Progressively, the speech just got worse, and they let it go on, and you can hear people in the audience saying are you kidding me, is this real, is this really going on?” White Smith tells Channel 11 News.
He expressed how painful this must have been to experience for the Black students in attendance and on campus.
“I just thought, why isn’t somebody standing up and saying something?” White Smith added.
Free speech expert Gene Policinski says inviting a speaker to campus doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement, especially in private institutions.
“The First Amendment is no guarantee against being offended, but it guarantees the right to respond to ideas we find offensive or wrong,” Policinski tells Channel 11.
Policinski says he believes the antidote to speech we don’t like is more speech and being able to counter what you believe is wrong.
“Sometimes we need to hear those things that anger or upset us or make us physically ill because it’s important to argue against them,” Policinski said. “We’re rarely able to silence the speaker. History tells us we’ve never been able to silence an idea.”
Saint Vincent College released a lengthy statement about the speech, saying they regretted it being presented in this forum and acknowledging how deeply upset students are, reading in part:
“The examples used during the lecture by Dr. Azerrad including those which downplayed and minimized the role of several highly accomplished African Americans including George Washington Carver, the women who played a strategic role in the mathematics underlying the early launches of NASA, and his theory as to why Kamala Harris was selected as VP on the basis of her standing solely as an African American woman were demeaning in many ways.”
Channel 11 reached out to Azerrad and requested an interview with him, but we did not hear back.
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