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Open Debate and Political Correctness

The reparations debate held at MIT this past week allowed conservative political commentator David Horowitz and black activist Dorothy Benton-Lewis to publicly debate the issue of monetary reparations to African Americans for the first time. While previous discourse between the two groups consisted largely of one-sided ads and propaganda pamphlets, this forum forced each side to respond publicly to the other’s criticisms.

It is hard to commend the firing of shots from behind party lines, a tactic which both Horowitz and Lewis have used to support their positions and attack any detractors. This sort of action engenders little more than ill will unless it is accompanied by constructive and open debate. While verbal debate is not the perfect forum for expressing a conflict of opinion, it is the simplest and fairest tool which exists.

Wednesday’s forum shed light on issues with far greater implications than reparations, and called into question the recent tendency towards political correctness. In attempting to remain politically correct at all cost, many people and organizations leave themselves unable to properly express their true feelings.

Valid points are lost in the interest of politeness, and unnecessary political correctness eventually breeds a sense of ignorance and compliance.

The volatility of the reparations issue has prevented debate from falling within the rigid realm of current political correctness. N’COBRA, a group co-chaired by Lewis, made several statements that crossed all lines of political correctness, and in doing so expressed the true and unchecked beliefs of its membership.

Horowitz has stated openly that reparations are not the issue at stake, and even expressed his support for attempts to help struggling blacks within America’s cities. However, the sheer absurdity in his mind of N’COBRA’s monetary demands led Horowitz to include the reparations issue in his self-proclaimed “ten year campaign to free universities from political correctness and censorship.” By refuting the statements of the black reparations movement in an equally fiery manner, he clearly expressed his right to discard political correctness and to openly dismiss statements which were politely ignored in the past.

The Tech supports the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all Americans to speak freely and express their opinions, even when those opinions are radical and seemingly outrageous. Our belief in the power of this form of free speech led us to offer monetary sponsorship to the event.

Political revolution comes about only through the unchecked expression of opinions, and not through muted and checked statements. America was not founded through acquiescence with the opinions of the ruling majority, and the Civil Rights movement required more than a few harsh exchanges of words.

While a properly functioning democracy allows for peaceful and civil changes in both policy and leadership, it requires that all sides be open with respect to their true opinions. Therefore, it is essential that honesty not be sacrificed in the interest of political correctness.