Letter to the editor: A drunk guy verbally assaulted me and somehow I was the one thrown out of the free speech event for speaking my mind

Last night, I went to a sloppy white supremacist propaganda screening veiled as a forum for ‘free speech and logical thought.’ As it was advertised, it became immediately clear that this was a hotbed for rape jokes, racial and gender slurs. Without any regard for content warnings, these white terrorists on training wheels began their invasive claiming of a supposed community. Offensive comedy is one thing but telling black and brown bodies and that our lives don’t matter under the guise of “free speech” is white nationalist rhetoric. It’s not students for free comedy; it’s not students for free anything. It’s students for freedom to bring back the sundown-town laws of Appleton. Almost comically, I became a human example of their utter disregard when a drunken white man during the screening verbally assaulted me. His friend, head nationalist in charge, proceeded to intimidate me and threaten to call Campus Safety if I did not “shut up and leave.” If I did not obey. They don’t see us black and brown people as human, and even for their own sake couldn’t try to pretend.

We watched a film titled “Can We Take a Joke” directed by Ted Balaker. The “documentary” started with a montage of white, upset comedians whining about their “apologies.” There was significant time given to creating an expectation of laughter and ridiculousness at the victimization of “minorities” that results from the generalized power that these comedians possess. Ironically, the film also centered around Leonard Alfred Schneider, colloquially known as Lenny Bruce. He is hailed as a hero for speaking about and satirizing his own life at the cost of repeated police altercations and arrests. But here is where I’m confused—there seems to be a sizeable difference between making jokes about your life and experiences in society and the blatant hypocrisy of it all and joking about how women “choose useless majors and then bitch about there not being women in math and science” and then when a woman expresses her disgust, telling her to “shut up you mother****** c***” (by the way this is where the white supremacist dominated section of the audience cheered). Or is that just me? Their entire line here is that they have the right to say whatever they want… And interestingly enough, I got thrown out of their event for speaking. Granted it was for heckling a movie, but isn’t that what free speech is all about? Open forums? Lemme walk you through.

Throughout this movie I, and others in the audience, chimed in our two-cents as it clumsily tried to throw together an argument about free speech and the mob mentality of outrage. Splicing together instances of racism from racists while piling in messy Uncle Tom types as a buffer, and then having the audacity to name Richard Pryor seems to welcome feedback and constructive criticism to its cultural and historical inaccuracy. This whole time I’m getting dirty looks and comments from the front as I’m the closest to them, to the point where one member* who had been drinking in an academic building at a Lawrence University event, drunkenly told me to “f****** shut up.” I was stunned. Before I could even formulate my response, Chris Wand, the president, stopped the film with literal glee and told me, “If you don’t shut up you need to leave.” Oh? If I shut up? If I shut my black ass up? This drunk white man just swore at me in public at your event, and you tell me to shut up and leave? You start filming me when I say I do not consent? You tell me you’re calling security on me? I’m blown. So I left. I love myself. Figure out what you love Lawrence, because time for your ignorance and silence is running out.

*yeah, hey J-Board, this member is Jacob Berman.


–Sabrina Conteh