The keynote speaker for Martin Luther King Day later this month for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Office of Multicultural Affairs has been an unapologetic communist, was once on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted," was once charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy (and acquitted), and was called by the then-president of the United States a "dangerous terrorist."
Dr. Angela Davis, today a professor emerita at the University of California at Santa Cruz, would not be our idea of a speaker to honor the civil rights leader who advocated nonviolence. Indeed, she took issue with civil rights leadership at the time and later joined the communist party because she felt it was more accepting of her.
Her views have hardly softened, a recent quote sounding very much like material in the much discredited "1619 Project": "... [Racism] is deeply embedded in the very fabric of this country -- its economy, its political structures, and all the institutions which form the basis of this society ..."
You won't find any of that in the university's academics-only description of Davis on its website. But if we were to suggest the university should disinvite her, or picket her, or that opponents should stand and try to outshout her by screaming "USA, USA" during her speech, we would become like those on the left who have made it their business to do those very things to the admittedly few conservatives who are invited to speak on college campuses today.
Such actions also might shut the door on UTC attempting to invite conservative speakers. It wasn't all that long ago, after all, that conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza spoke at UTC. In the 2017 Burkett Miller Distinguished Lecture at Roland Hayes Hall, he compared progressive politicians to fascists, said Democrats are to blame in interfering with the free market success of America, and charged, "If you took Hitler's speech and simply blocked out "Jews" and replaced it with "the 1 percent," you would feel like you were at the Democratic National Convention."
We have no idea what Davis will say or if she is still a "bomb thrower," as the phrase went that was often tossed around when she was an activist more than 50 years ago. We would hope she is more into tolerance and cooperation.
But those who don't want to hear what she has to say shouldn't go. But we should all be glad that UTC -- at least for now -- is the same institution that would invite both D'Souza and Davis and not a place like so many centers of higher learning where only one side can be heard.