The views expressed in The Vermilion's opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect those of The Vermilion staff or of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
I’m sure that you’ve heard the old saying about how you are the company you keep. Although members of the Republican Party have tried to denounce accusations of racism and white supremacy publicly, how much does this do if they are still held in high esteem by white supremacists?
In recent years, the Anti-Defamation League has reported a rise in anti-semitic incidents and white nationalists groups have increased their presence on college campuses. We’ve experienced this firsthand at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and we have had multiple incidents over the past few years of known white supremacist and white nationalist groups, attempting to recruit on campus and to intimidate The Vermilion by flyering our building with their propaganda posters and stickers.
The university has stated more than once that diversity and unity are part of the fabric of this campus, so naturally, I was shocked to learn that the university is allowing someone who has been cited as an inspiration to the New Zealand gunman, has publically minimized the actions of Hitler and has denied the rise of white supremacy in the wake of the Unite the Right rally.
Those comprise just the tip of the iceberg of controversy that Candace Owens has found herself in over the past few years. Candace Owens has been a member of the Turning Point USA team up until this year, an organization that has also aligned itself with the likes of Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos.
Although Turning Point USA claims its mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government,” the organization has been in hot water not only for the actions of now-former staff members, but of some of their members. Both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have expressed concerns about Turning Point USA and has documented their relationships with white nationalists and other far-right groups, such as the Proud Boys. Members of TPUSA have also been reported
One notable incident was when a leaked conversation between Crystal Clanton, who served as the group's national field director for five years, and another Turning Point employee which read "I hate black people. Like f*** them all ... I hate blacks. End of story." Clanton was explicitly praised in the book of Turning Point USA’s founder, saying she had been "the best hire we ever could have made," and that "Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America." Turning Point has also been accused of meddling in student elections on campuses, and illegally utilizing its student resources to interfere with the 2016 election.
Is this the kind of person we want to host at our university? Though she has stepped down from her position at the organization, Candace Owens has stated she will still be participating in their speaking engagements, which is what will be bringing her to our university on Wednesday.
Mark Mallory, a graduate student in history here at UL Lafayette, has taken the extra step to denounce Owens’ presence on campus by forming the Student Action and Organizing Committee (S.A.O.C), a group to watchdog extremism on our campus. Owens will be arriving for a meet and greet at 6 p.m., but will be speaking at 7 p.m., when S.A.O.C is planning to stage a demonstration in protest. A press release from S.A.O.C states:
“Many statements made and positions advocated for by Owens, as well as her connection to the rightwing student organization Turning Point USA. Owens has denied the overwhelming scientific consensus around global Climate Change, calling it ‘a lie.’ Owens has referred to Transgender identity as ‘a mental disorder’. Owens continues to normalize and defend nationalism and far-right extremism through statements such as ‘If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well - OK, fine.’
“Owens has defined her public career through ignorance, misinformation, intellectual dishonesty, and bigotry towards others. We believe Owens’s career and statements constitute ongoing normalization of violence against racial and ethnic minorities and against LGBTQ people. We also believe denying Climate Change is dangerous. This demonstration of solidarity is an opportunity for the community to intervene in the narratives of division, exclusion, and cynicism perpetuated by figures such as Owens.”
S.O.A.C has reached out to the College Republicans and to the Dean of Students, Margarita Perez, and requested that the event be canceled, but there have been no updates at this time.