Co-author: Jay Pang, Co-Founder of Programming Interview Prep
I am an Asian. I contributed to the crowdfunded campaign to help Milo Yiannopoulos continue to make disparaging remarks on minorities like me.
No, I'm not self-hating! I'm just a believer in free speech.
America is a land rooted in the ideas of a free society: the freedom to be who you are, to speak your mind and to innovate. Two hundred years after the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech, it continues to be our most cherished value.
Free speech is not a symbolic talisman like a national flag or motto. It is what distinguishes America from Russia.
The true test for freedom of speech is in supporting the right to speak the ideas we disagree with. To quote President Andrew Shepherd from the movie 'The American President', "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil."
We are increasingly failing this test, on college campuses and elsewhere.
Colleges are meant to be beacons of unbridled thoughts, where young adults become thoughtful men and women by discussing and debating conflicting opinions. But colleges have instead become hot spots for censorship.
A study by the Higher Education Research Institute found that 71% of freshmen favored prohibition of racist and sexist speech. What counts as bigoted is on the eye of the beholder, inevitably a slippery slope.
At Yale University, Associate Master Erika Christakis landed herself in the midst of a controversy for questioning university guidelines on Halloween costumes. Her controversial email to the student community, in part said: "Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense -- and I'll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes -- I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious ... a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?"
NorthWestern University Professor Laura Kippins was investigated by the University for Title IX violations because several students alleged that they were offended by her publishing an article questioning the statistics of sexual violence on college campuses.
Some colleges like the University of Cincinnati have changed gears from freedom of speech to freedom from speech by creating tiny free-speech zones, the only areas on campus with free-speech rights.
Creating an inclusive campus is a noble goal but silencing dissent will only make those with different views feel marginalized, and perhaps take them a step closer to becoming the caricatures that have been made of them.
As Robby Soave has pointed out in an article titled "Trump Won Because Leftist Political Correctness Inspired a Terrifying Backlash" published in 'Reason' magazine, votes for President Trump were not votes for his policies, but for challenging the censors of political correctness and speaking his mind. Those were the votes of everyday Americans frustrated at being silenced as bigots, racists or homophobes because they disagree with the left on controversial issues like self-identification transgender bathroom laws, or tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Does University of Berkeley, one of the most liberal colleges in the country, really have hundreds of students who agree with Milo Yiannopoulo's views? At least none of the students I know attend the event for Milo's views. The students were merely enthused by the journalist breaking the figurative duct-tape -- political correctness -- that had silenced them all.
Overzealous social justice activists have paved Trump's way to the White House. They have made Milo Yiannopoulo a cause célèbre for social conservatives and free speech advocates. How much more damage will they do to their own cause?
A personal note: most of us take debating on social issues like freedom of speech for granted. But even such mundane activities are unimaginable for many people in this planet, such as the families of Mohit and Grishmitha, who face the horror of watching their 6- and 3-year-olds die of a life-threatening disease (Thalassemia Major) just because they cannot afford the treatment. No matter which side of the debate you are on, you can impact several lives by skipping a trip to the coffee shop and contributing a few dollars.