Opinion | The University should not give a platform to Charlie Kirk’s misinformation

Alex Jobin, Staff Columnist

Right-wing provocateur Charlie Kirk is coming to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 3, but we must talk about it now, and the implications of Kirk’s event must be addressed.

Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA, an organization that describes itself as a “national student movement” which promotes “free markets and limited government.” His visit to Tuscaloosa in November will be a part of his “Exposing Critical Racism Tour,” a series of talks Kirk is delivering to universities across the nation in an attempt to attack the progressive teachings of controversial critical race theory.

Interestingly, Kirk is also a well-documented racist and proponent of disinformation.

During a recent speech at Minnesota State University, Kirk referred to George Floyd — the man whose murder at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin sparked a wave of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 — as a “scumbag.” In the same speech, Kirk said that Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose, that Floyd had tried to counterfeit money and that Floyd once “put a gun to a pregnant woman’s stomach” —  all myths that have been proven to be nothing more than attempts at vilifying a victim of racist police brutality

Kirk has also framed the ongoing debate over immigration policy as a matter of preserving white demographics in America and preventing more nonwhite voters from shifting left.

It is apparent why Kirk, a man who is clearly intent on misrepresenting issues involving race, would embark on a tour focused on discussing critical race theory.

Although it is a complex and intricate philosophy, critical race theory can be explained as the acknowledgment that systems of oppression still exist in modern society, and that race is a social construct used to elevate the socioeconomic status of those considered “white” and to demote and oppress those deemed “nonwhite.” More importantly, critical race theory recognizes that an integral component of these systems of oppression is their ability to deny their very own existence. Simply put, many people do not realize that systemic racism exists because they are not supposed to.

Many, like Kirk, ignorantly attack critical race theory for being an “anti-white” ideology. This is not true and is a mischaracterization of critical race theory’s principles. Kirk spreading such mischaracterizations in our community is unacceptable. 

Samuel Woodham-Smith, a senior majoring in anthropology, is unhappy that Kirk is coming to Tuscaloosa.

“Enabling a far-right conspiracy theorist with absolutely no relevant academic background … to come and speak about advanced law theory is frankly an insult to the faculty at this university who devote their careers to scholarship and education,” Woodham-Smith said. 

Beyond a lack of an academic background in this field, Kirk’s proclivity for lying and misrepresenting important issues makes him even less worthy as a candidate for a guest speaker.

PolitiFact is a nonprofit website that “rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others.” Only one of the website’s nine fact checks on Kirk was verified to be “mostly true.” Two of the other checks were rated as “mostly false,” four were rated as “false,” and the last two statements were so egregious that they were given the not-so-humorous rating of “pants on fire.”

Kirk has also been a leading figure in spreading anti-vax talking points amid the COVID-19 pandemic, directly contributing to low vaccination rates among conservatives and thereby adding to the sustained hospitalization and death rates of the pandemic.

Suffice to say, Charlie Kirk is not someone who should be trusted to provide a fair and honest discourse surrounding an issue as important and intricate as critical race theory. He is a demonstrable liar who utilizes racist agitprop and conspiratorial rhetoric to gain political influence, and should not be regarded as the intellectual that he portrays himself to be. 

Kirk’s appearance in Tuscaloosa undermines our faculty members who are fighting to properly represent critical race theory. The University must react to the “Exposing Critical Racism Tour” by putting more effort into promoting events like the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’s recent conversation with Professors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic (two actual critical race scholars).

Denouncing Kirk’s rhetoric is not anti-free speech. Charlie Kirk should be allowed to say whatever he pleases, but that does not mean that he is entitled to a platform, or that he is exempt from criticism. If students allow his voice to echo unchallenged throughout our community, we would undermine our University’s commitment to truth and education. While the University may not be able to prevent his presence in Tuscaloosa since the evented will be hosted at the privately owned Hotel Capstone, the students at UA must counter his message.

Kirk will indubitably use this event to promote his bigoted rhetoric to students and cultivate an unsafe environment in our community (a community that already has a history mired in racism). If we are truly committed to diversity, equity and inclusion here at UA, then students will not allow these values to be subverted by Kirk’s hateful ideology.

I have only scratched the surface of who Charlie Kirk is in this article. There are so many disturbing sound bites that have come from Kirk’s mouth that it is truly difficult to sift through them all. If you are still not convinced that Kirk is a harmful public figure who does not deserve to be promoted at our university, then I heavily encourage you to watch a few videos of him for yourself. 

If you, too, are unsettled by his messaging, now is the time to act.

We, as individuals, have the power to protest. You can reserve a free seat and not show up, and the venue can be called and reprimanded for hosting Kirk. Additionally, the UA Leftist Collective is discussing plans for an organized protest outside of the event. 

Ultimately, welcoming a man who has no respect for truth or diversity into our community would undermine the scholarship and identity of our students, the authority and respect of our professors, and the very notion that the University is a place which celebrates knowledge and higher education. We must actively push back against Kirk’s appearance and the regressive ideas that he represents. This can begin by raising our own awareness of racial justice issues, and transforming that awareness into action.

The only right thing to do is to boycott this event and to consider how we can work to elevate voices that are more honest and productive for our community in the future.

Questions? Email the Opinions desk at [email protected].