Conservative political commentator and author Ben Shapiro spoke at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday for his event, “The Regressive Left, ‘Social Justice’ and #BlackLivesMatter.”
Campbell Hall was filled to maximum capacity 10 minutes before the event began, leaving some students to watch the event through a livestream outside the lecture hall.
Several student groups, including the Black Student Union, expressed concern that the lecture would encourage hateful rhetoric against minority groups and spoke for six hours during an A.S. Senate open forum in October, an opposition which Shapiro said on Tuesday was “sort of fascist.”
During the event, Shapiro criticized UCSB and said the perception of victimhood allowed students to deface posters for his lecture, dismiss anything he says as hate-speech and essentially slander him as a neo-Nazi.
Shapiro claimed his Jewish faith as evidence for the irony of calling him a Nazi.
Bigots, racists and homophobes represent individuals and do not represent American society and institutions, Shapiro said, and thinking of individuals as representatives of a collective is “false” and “counterproductive.”
He also discussed white privilege, saying that although American history is “replete” with racism, it is important to focus on the future.
“Some people are currently affected by racism in the past … but we cannot fix that with more racism. Injustice does not solve injustice,” he said.
Shapiro denied that America and Western civilization privileges white people above ethnic minorities. He said we cannot fix where we start, but we can fix where we’re going.
He then cited the Brookings Institution and suggested three things that people can do to avoid poverty: get married before having children, finish high school and get a job.
Shapiro criticized the idea that poverty is racially based, saying that it is mainly based on personal decisions.
“Seventy-one percent of poor families with children are unmarried and … the strongest indicator of intergenerational poverty is single motherhood,” Shapiro said. “The poverty rate among non-married white families was 22 percent in 2008; the poverty rate among black married couples that same year was seven percent.”
He used the statistics to question the validity of white privilege, saying if the country was inherently biased against minorities, a white single mom would be financially better off than a black married couple.
On the topic of the gender wage gap, Shapiro referenced Time magazine and said that “in 147 out of 100 — of 150 of the biggest cities in the United States, women actually make, on average, eight percent more than men if they are single and childless and they’re out of college and have the same job description and work the same number of hours.”
He also said income inequality is not an issue in the United States.
“The stupidity of the income inequality idea is the idea that just because I make a lot of money, it means I’m stealing it from you. I don’t care about you; I’ve never taken anything from you,” Shapiro said. “In order for you to give me something, I’m going to have to give you a service in return.”
UCSB’s Educational Opportunity Program hosted a “Cultural Appreciation Night” at the same time as Shapiro’s talk on Tuesday. There was food and activities at the event, which included candlestick-making, bracelet-making, canvas-painting, a poetry slam and movie screenings.
Organizers of the Shapiro talk, however, said the event was an attempt to counter the talk. Young America’s Foundation (YAF) programmer Amy Lutz tweeted a photo of posters announcing the “Cultural Appreciation Night,” which she said was “the leftist’s attempt at counter programming.”
— Amy Lutz (@amylutz4) February 21, 2017
When asked if their event was a response to Shapiro’s talk on campus, organizers of the “Cultural Appreciation Night” said it had nothing to do with him and that they just wanted to study diversity and culture together.
Correction: The event name was changed from “Lies, Prejudice, and Division: The Legacy of the #BLM Movement.” to “The Regressive Left, ‘Social Justice’ and #BlackLivesMatter.”