As Jonathan Chait aptly observers, “Nearly all American politicians in both major parties support some limits on legal immigration, and some measures to enforce those laws. Virtually all of them define some human beings as ‘unworthy of legal standing.’”
If Plato were reincarnated for a day and if he offered to deliver a lecture at NYU, one wonders if Baer would decline the offer, what with the philosopher’s writing on eugenics and belief that some humans are inferior to others. In fact, since Baer thinks some questions Plato raised are “unmentionable and undebatable,” one wonders if or why he is comfortable with NYU professors assigning the philosopher as course reading, let alone asking undergraduates to grapple with his ideas in class discussions.
Baer is presumably earnest in believing that declaring certain speakers and ideas beyond mention or debate “should be understood as an attempt to ensure the conditions of free speech for a greater group of people,” and that in so doing, he is acting as the righteous champion and protector of oppressed groups. But implicit in his understanding are lazy stereotypes common to many who share his views on speech.
To attend New York University, as I did for graduate school, or to converse with undergraduates at dozens of selective colleges and universities, as I have spent scores of hours doing, confirms what any observer of American life ought to know: that the opinions of African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, gays, lesbians, trans people, undocumented immigrants, foreign students, people from minority religious groups, and those of members of every other identity group on campus are hugely diverse. There is no reason to believe (as some white supremacists do) that minority students need an experiential paradigm to thrive, or are less suited to reasoning or liberal values, views that Baer seems to imply but never quite states outright.
What’s more, in a failure to think intersectionally, Baer seems not to realize that there are millions of black and Hispanic Americans whose views on, say, illegal immigration or transgender rights run afoul of his standards for what is even mentionable. How much speech by historically marginalized groups will be stifled in Baer’s effort “to ensure the conditions of free speech for a greater group of people”?
To invoke a postmodern philosopher or the critical race theorists, and to proceed as if their views on hearing and suppressing speech are the consensus position of a generation, or students of color, or that members of some groups are inclined to thrive under a censorious model of speech, assumes group beliefs, inclinations, and psychological predispositions not in evidence. In fact, many members of minority groups prefer an education free from the soft bigotry of those stereotyping them as snowflakes who need protecting from ideas when they can more than hold their own.