Richard Spencer, white nationalist and creator of the term “alt-right,” will be speaking in Rudder Tower this December.
Spencer will be speaking on the alt-right movement, a radical offshoot of conservatism which promotes white identity and white nationalism. Spencer’s speech will be focusing on explaining what the alt-right is, and how he believes this movement will affect the United States.
Recently, video of a speech Spencer gave at a conference for the National Policy Institute, a think tank for white nationalists and the alt-right, circulated around the internet. Much of the speech included anti-semitic remarks and Nazi rhetoric. At the end of the speech, Spencer said “Heil Trump, heil our people, heil victory,” and several members of the audience gave the Nazi salute.
Preston Wiginton, white nationalist, organizer of the event and member of the alt-right, said the movement is not about saying white people are better than other races, but that white people should be able to separate themselves and have pride. Wiginton has brought white nationalist speakers to the university in the past, and attended the Texas A&M University from 2006 to 2007 before withdrawing to go to Russia.
“If we want to have a white state, or a white community or a white homeland we should be able to have that,” Wiginton said. “We respect that for all people. If we look at the NAACP, black people have the right to have that. Why can’t white people have a WAACP?”
University spokesperson Amy B. Smith, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Texas A&M, said that no invitation was extended to Spencer from the university.
"There has been deep concern expressed by our Aggie community about an individual planning to speak at our campus. To be clear, Texas A&M University – including faculty, staff, students and/or student groups - did not invite this speaker to our campus nor do we endorse his rhetoric in any way. In fact, our leadership finds his views as expressed to date in direct conflict with our core values," Smith said. "Private citizens are permitted to reserve space available to the public as we are a public university as is the case here. Public groups must cover all rental expenses so that state resources are not burdened."
Wiginton said the alt-right is against a double standard for races. During his time at Texas A&M, Wiginton clashed with Professor Joe Feagin, a professor at A&M whose research is based on racism and discrimination, as well as university officials. Wiginton said he also faced opposition when he attempted to start an official radio station that only played music of European origin. Wiginton said this would not happen with other races.
“Why can’t we celebrate who we are? Why can’t we have a political right to our system?” Wiginton said.
Concerning the Nazi salutes that happened at the end of Spencer’s speech, Wiginton said it wasn’t the right time.
“America isn’t quite ready for that,” Wiginton said.
Aggies and B-CS community members have reacted on Twitter Facebook to Spencer's planned visit. While some say it is a matter of free speech, many were outraged. There is currently a petition to stop Spencer's arrival circulating on social media.
⚡️ “Aggies react to Richard Spencer coming to campus on Dec. 6.”https://t.co/iR11sXtvTb— The Battalion (@TheBattOnline) November 23, 2016
Rodney Young, food science senior and member of TAMU Anti-Racism, a group that has organized protests on campus since spring semester as well as proposed a mandatory class based on race, said that although Spencer should be allowed to speak because of his right to free speech, he does not agree with the rhetoric he predicts will be said during the event.
“I can be against the rhetoric that he does spew and the anti-semitic commentary that he gives,” Young said. “It depends on what he intends to come talk about. I can assume he’s going to say some very derogatory terms towards ethnic groups, which is why I’m apprehensive about it. Ultimately, I can’t be upset about him coming because he has the right to say what he wants.”
Young also countered Wiginton’s argument that White people should have spaces dedicated to their race.
“When it comes to the whole need for White groups to praise themselves, I feel like it’s really unjustified. Because, in the majority of America, in every state, there’s no need for that,” Young said. “The reason there are groups like the NAACP and Hispanic organizations and ethnically based organizations is because we’re not acknowledged in our communities. A lot of times, these alt-right groups are created because they have a superiority complex and feel that their superiority is being compromised.”
Jared Taylor, a white nationalist and Alt-Right member who has spoken at A&M in the past, said the group isn’t directly aligned with neo-Nazism, although both ideologies can intersect. Taylor said the Alt-Right agrees with President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed immigration policies because it will slow down the rate at which white people are becoming the minority in the United States.
“I think the term ‘White supremacy’ should be retired from the contemporary vocabulary,” Taylor said. “I think a White supremacist is presumably someone who wants to rule over people of other races. I don’t think anyone in the alt-right has that desire."
Stephanie Akin, forensic and investigative sciences freshman, said the timing of the event could be perceived as inappropriate.
“It’s not exactly the right time for him to come and speak, especially after the recent videos going around with Nazi-ish tendencies,” Akin said. “A&M has been going through a lot of, not hardship, but media attention with recent protests and organizations that are going on. As long as it doesn’t bring negative attention towards A&M in general.”
Spencer will be speaking in Rudder Auditorium room 601 on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.
UPDATE 11/23/16: This article was updated to include university comment.