The last several weeks of studying Intercultural Communication have opened up my eyes to just how differently individuals may view the world. Before taking this class, I probably would not have even read all the way through Texas Monthly’s, “When the Alt-right Meets the Aggies”, by Christopher Hooks. Instead I would have looked at what “Richard Spencer, the Dallas man that coined the term ‘Alt-right’”(Hooks) had to say and would not have even bothered with reading the rest of the article purely because I did care to read what another individual’s outlook on life looked like. Through Intercultural Communication though, I have learned that not only is my worldview completely unique, but it is just as true to me as other people’s worldviews are to them.
“When the Alt-right Meets the Aggies”, written by Christopher Hooks, a clearly anti-Spencer and anti-neo-Nazi author, discusses the events that took place at Texas A&M University on the sixth of December. Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, was invited by Texas A&M alum Preston Wiginton and scheduled to deliver a hate filled message to whoever was willing (or unwilling) to listen to what he had to say. Richard Spencer’s non-profit group, “which promotes the white nationalist movement, is dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European descent in the United States” (Chris Graham). Due to the school’s regulation that states that anyone is allowed to reserve certain areas for private events, not even the president of the university, Dr. Michael Young, was unable to prevent the newly self-proclaimed Alt-right leader from showing up. Although the university’s regulation and The First Amendment protected Richard Spencer’s freedom of hate-speech, there were plenty of thousands of people that were more than ready to rally and stand against what he had to say.
Crowds and crowds of people, ranging from Texas A&M students to out-of-towners from all over, gathered peacefully (and a few, not so peacefully) to try to tune out the white nationalist. Counter events were even scheduled and held at the same exact time in order to protest the guest speaker. These events including things like Aggies United, “an exceptionally earnest pep rally for American pluralism and Aggie values attracting a crowd of several thousand” (Hooks), a “#BTHO Hate Protest, an Ags Against White Nationalism Lecture, a Silent Protest Group, protest music, a Make Racists Afraid Again Protest, and a Houston Socialist Movement to Shut down Neo-Nazi Platform” (Mugdown Staff). When the time came for the highly dreaded and anticipated speech in a Memorial Student Center conference room, four hundred people, mostly made up of anti-Spencer hecklers and antagonizers, showed up in attendance. “Inside the student center, Spencer gave a brief press conference, spoke for only a half-hour, and took questions for an hour more” (Hooks).
By the end of the day, evidence of the event at Texas A&M University was surfacing all over every social media platform. Images and videos of protestors holding signs saying things like, “Heil No” and “Bash the Fash” flooded the Internet. So much attention was drawn to the event that not only local networks but also major networks like CNN and ABC were on the scene in College Station, capturing both the peaceful and chaotic protestors. As nightfall came and the numbers of people were doubling by the minute, the intensity of the protests eventually called for a police presence, fully decked out in riot gear, eventually causing the crowds to disperse and the event to end.
Now that I have taken Intercultural Communication and am able to read this article with a fresh pair of eyes, I cannot help but to pick it apart piece by piece. History, for example, plays a huge part in understanding this story. For one to truly understand the degree of offense felt by those who feel mistreated, one must understand exactly what values “alt-right” members stand for and what kind of beliefs and behaviors are often associated with the term. Before making his way to Texas A&M University, Richard Spencer made his debut at a conference in New York following the election of president-elect Donald Trump. Spencer, after have “gaining prominence by riding the coattails of Donald Trump’s presidential election” (Hooks), delivered a speech that was intended to gain attention to the “alternative-right” movement, “alt-right” for short. After calling white people ‘children of the sun’ (Hooks) and then sharing his dream of a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” where a “new society, an ethno-state, would be a gathering point for all Europeans” (Graham), the audience reacted by “giving the Nazi salute to an exhortation to ‘heil Trump’” (Hooks). Although Donald Trump and his campaign completely deny any association to the white supremacy group, there is no wonder as to why one might associate the two, given Trump’s hate-speech fueled campaign, other than Richard Spencer’s outright support for the president-elect.
Over the last year leading up to the presidential election, our country was able to get a taste of just how “united” we really are. Although tensions over presidential elections usually tend to run high, this year was unlike any other we had ever seen. Right now our country is experiencing an epidemic that is not so unfamiliar to our history, racism. President-elect Donald Trump has been both praised and had stones cast his way for the way he chose to run his campaign. The manner in which he chose to conduct himself in and the rhetoric used both seemed to hold a common tone: hate. Hate for Muslims, hate for Hispanics, hate for women who chose to get an abortion… hate for any one that he deemed “wrong”. Trump rallies and protests often turned violent, as the hate speech that was shown first hand by their candidate flooded the nation. Trump, instead of being torn down and defeated by criticism, only fueled the fire of hate and separation across the nation by encouraging his supporters to act out. One cannot help but to think that this kind of strange and widely-accepted racism, brought on by Trump’s hate speech, lead to the creation of movements like Spencer’s “alt-right” group. One also might associate the two men together because of their more obvious traits, both men and coated with white privilege.
The article written by Christopher Hooks also provides excellent examples of different cultural values coming into play. On one side, you have the white Nationalist, Richard Spencer. Given the article and information at hand, one can take away that Spencer’s cultural values reflect the idea of white supremacy, even stating, “at the end of the day, America belongs to the white men” (Barker). Spencer seems to feel that just because he is white that he is above anyone else that falls under a different racial category. He has been recorded time and time again talking about his goal of building an ethno-state and does not seem to be changing those intensions any time soon. Choosing, instead, to promote his movement at any given opportunity.
On the other side you have people like the thousands and thousands of Aggies and people-alike who’s cultural values involve acceptance to diversity. Although “Texas A&M University was ranked the most conservative college campus in the country, according to Princeton Review in 2016” (Hooks), the university is known throughout the nation for it’s upstanding moral behavior. As an Aggie, you are taught to uphold the six core values: excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service. This article and the events that were held on campus stand as proof to the kind of cultural values the university holds dear to their hearts. By allowing Richard Spencer to speak on campus, even though they were completely against everything the speaker stood by, Texas A&M honored one of their core values by respecting his difference in opinion. They showed leadership by proving to a nation that it is possible to stand up in the face of adversity and peacefully protest against something that you do not agree with. They showed integrity by showing up to the multiple events in large numbers and standing with their fellow brothers and sisters to “celebrate the triumph of human spirit over hateful spirits” (Hooks). Texas A&M University proved to the world that in a time of heat, anger and hate… love, indeed, conquers all.
Although staring into the face of someone that does not share the same cultural values, ethnic backgrounds, or worldview may be challenging, it is important that we stand as the UNITED nation that we sell ourselves to be. We must remember that when the time comes where you are challenged with a point of view like Richard Spencer’s that is so radically different than your own, to instead challenge that hatred with love. The key to love and acceptance is realizing that the truths that others hold so dear are just as true to them, as yours is to you. Namaste.
Graham, C. (2016, November 22). Nazi salutes and white supremacism: Who is Richard Spencer, the ‘racist academic’ behind the ‘Alt right’ movement. In The Telegraph.
Hooks, C. (2016, December 9). When the Alt-right Meets the Aggies. In Texas Monthly.
Mugdown Staff. (2016, December 6). 7 Ways to Show Your Friends You Are Not a White Supremacist Today. In The Mugdown .
Texas A&M University. (n.d.). Aggie Core Values.