On February 28, the University of Maryland School of Public Policy hosted “Strengthening Our Community,” with Jason Nichols, a lecturer in the UMD African American Studies Department. The event featured an interactive discussion with Nichols and the audience, moderated by MPP Student and BSiPP President Corinne Paul.
School of Public Policy Dean Robert C. Orr started the event by welcoming the audience and speakers. “The subject tonight is strengthening our community. And we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “These are strange times, but it’s safe to say when it comes to race and identity in this country, we’ve had strange times before.”
After the introductions, Nichols began his lecture by reading emails and comments he received following one of his television appearances. “I wanted to share some experiences I’ve had with my intellectual work,” he said. The comments and emails contained racist language, curse words and requests for Nichols to stop speaking out.
Nichols went on to detail his experiences appearing on Fox News segments with Tucker Carlson, after which he received the previously mentioned hateful responses. When asked why he continued to go back on the show, Nichols said, “It’s scary and it does emotionally affect you. But it’s motivated me.”
He emphasized the importance of inserting yourself into conversations outside your normal circles. “People in progressive politics have to be involved in every conversation,” he said. “I don’t back down. I think my argument is strong enough.”
When discussing the idea of free speech and universities, Nichols said he doesn’t ban ideas from his classroom. He instead focuses on facilitating discussions. “The reason I love UMD and universities in general is the free exchange of ideas,” he said. “I think it’s important to have open dialogue on college campuses.”
During the Q&A portion of the event, Nichols added, “My goal is to make sure no one with hateful ideas gets away with it without our ideas being present.”
Speaking about his classroom again, Nichols said, “You have to try to set up an environment where ideas are respected and people speak respectfully … The beauty of a university is that it’s a center for learning.”
When asked about speaking up about issues that affect your community, Nichols simply said, “You can’t afford to lose your voice.”
View photos from the event on the SPP Flickr account and watch video from the event on the SPP YouTube Account (video contains explicit language).