Don Lemon: Mizzou, “Safe Spaces” Are Not Your Friend

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As I wrote in my last commentary, I think even the NFL could learn from the Mizzou players who stood up for what they believed in.

I also followed that sentence by asking you what you believe in.

The reason I’m asking you again this time is because the only issue I have with what happened at the University of Missouri is their vigorous effort to squash freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

That is a very dangerous road that no one should want to go down.

Just ask the university’s mass media professor Melissa Click who was caught on camera pushing a student journalist’s camera and trying to force him to leave.

Reporter: “I’m media. Can I talk to you?

Click: “No, you need to get out. You need to get out.

Reporter: “No I don’t.”

Click: “You need to get out.

Reporter: “No I actually don’t.”

Click: “Hey can you help me get this reporter out of here. I need some muscle over here. Help me get him out? Who’s gonna help?”

Student: “What are you doing over here?”

Reporter: “I’m documenting.”

Click: “You need to get out. You need to get out.”

Reporter: “This is public property.”

Click: “I know that’s a really good one. I ‘m in communications actually and I really get that argument. But you need to go, you need to go, you need to go.”

Again, she’s a mass communications professor.

The students then jumped in and started confronting the reporter saying he needed to protect their space, their “safe space” as human beings, and then began yelling at reporters, “hey hey ho ho, reporters have got to go.”

I’m not sure one can blame the students in that situation because they are probably only reflecting what they’re being taught from some of the adults at the university who appear to be encouraging that behavior.

Reportedly the students who organized the protests, including the graduate student who went on a hunger strike, refused to talk to The St. Louis Post Dispatch and some news organizations if they could not control the message and the conversation.

The Twitter account belonging to Concerned Students 1950, the protest organizers, tweeted (quote), “it’s typically white media who don’t understand the importance of respecting black spaces.”

It was followed by (quote), “We truly appreciate having our story told, but this movement isn’t for you.”

Mizzou has one of the most well-respected journalism programs in the country.

Students there should know that in America, a country with a free and open press, that it is dangerous to deny anyone that freedom.

In fact, it’s un-American.

It is also equally as dangerous and limiting and short-sighted to only speak, associate and engage with people or news organizations with whom you agree.

Freedom fighters like Dr. King and Malcom X quite often and on purpose, would run right into the lion’s den to engage with people with whom they didn’t necessarily agree or care for.

Why?

Because they weren’t afraid of confrontation; of being challenged.

They weren’t afraid of being offended.

They weren’t afraid of offending.

They knew the real meaning of freedom of the press, freedom of speech and expression.

Let me be extremely clear here.

Students should be safe from physical harm and threats anywhere; especially on college campuses.

But they should not be coddled by retreating into so-called “safe spaces” because they’re afraid of having their feelings hurt.

If you’re afraid of having your feelings hurt, don’t leave your house.

College is the place where robust debate should be welcomed and vigorously explored.

It is the field trip before the real world.

In the real world people’s feelings are hurt every single day.

No one on my job agrees with everything I say, and guess what, I’m not offended by it.

I expect and even welcome it.

And speaking as a black person in America, considering the history of this country, if anyone should fight tooth and nail for free speech and a free and open press, it should be black people.

Just as you cannot control how people will receive your message, you should not try to control who tells it.

If any one group should know better, it should be black people.

That footage from Bloody Sunday on The Edmund Pettus Bridge near Selma, broadcast nationwide by a free and open press, outraged a country and embarrassed a President to enact expansive legislation that allowed our people to be able to attend that very university where you’re protesting.

The people who got the crap kicked out of them, who were fire hosed and attacked by dogs, and some who even died, did it without the “luxury” of a so-called “safe space.”

The leaders of that movement that propelled us into this moment, did it through wit, grit and wisdom, not through shutting people out.

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