Shut down hate

On Monday, some students at the University of Nevada, Reno, gathered to listen to a visiting speaker, while others protested outside of the venue. College campuses are meant to be places for discussion, for debate, places where people can go to be exposed to knowledge and opinions different from their own. But protests against speakers are becoming increasingly common—and with good reason. That’s because students aren’t protesting free speech. They’re protesting hate speech.

The speaker who came to UNR early this week was Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA (TPUSA), which has chapters on campuses across the nation. He says that his group denounces racism. At the beginning of his UNR speech, which was the kickoff to his “Cultural War Tour” of eight universities, Kirk told the crowd, “The evil, wicked ideology of white supremacy has no place in our organization.”

That said, let’s take a brief look at the racism that’s come from within TPUSA since its founding in 2012:

Crystal Clanton, former national field director for the group, sent text messages to another employee of the group saying, “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all … I hate blacks. End of story.” Before she said it, Kirk had said of Clanton, “Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America.”

Clanton was replaced by Troy Meeker and Shialee Grooman. Both are known to have used anti-Black slurs on Twitter, and Grooman has also made anti-gay tweets.

Kirk’s own Twitter feed hasn’t been clean either. He once tweeted the following fallacious statistic: “Fact: A police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed man is to be killed by a police officer.”

In 2018, TPUSA’s Student Action Summit listed Gab—a white supremacist-friendly social media platform—as one of its sponsors before quietly dropping the company’s name from the event shortly before it occurred.

Anyone remember plagiarizer and former BuzzFeed editor Benny Johnson? He’s TPUSA’s chief “creative officer”—and he kicked off one of the group’s events by saying, “Oh, my God. I’ve never seen so many white people in one room. This is incredible.”

TPUSA is not just a conservative group. It’s a hate group, and those who protested Charlie Kirk’s appearance at UNR were right to do so. Swastikas have been found painted on campus in recent years. The community was ashamed when we learned that a UNR student had marched in the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville—the rally that turned deadly.

We should rally as a community to protect free speech when it’s under threat. Hate speech is something else entirely. We should rally together to condemn it. In the future, UNR’s administration should consider joining the protests.