By Noelle Ullery, Staff Writer
On Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, the Stephen S. Smith Center in the Williams College of Business hosted a guest speaker. The Center invited Lara Logan — a former producer and correspondent on 60 Minutes and former chief foreign affairs correspondent on CBS News with an accomplished reporting career, specifically in Afghanistan — to speak on journalism and bias in the media.
Logan currently produces a segment on Fox Nation titled “Lara Logan Has No Agenda.” Given her journalistic experience, I expected an open environment where my fellow Smith Scholars could ask questions and learn more about media. I expected a respectful discussion about the role of bias in today’s media. I expected to be heard.
Instead, I was met with intimidation. Invalidation. And racism.
Logan began her event by opening with rhetorical questions: “How many of you think I’m a White supremacist? Homophobic? Anti-Semitic?”
Now, if you weren’t there – or even if you were – you may be wondering: Were they truly rhetorical questions or did no one raise their hands because they legitimately thought she didn’t fit any of the accusations?
Here’s my answer: She did not state they were rhetorical questions. But, if she wanted to hear our opinions, she would have prompted us. She could have presumed a professorial role and cold-called someone, a well-intentioned act that screams, “I want you to participate. What do you think?”
I present both sides of the posed question because I see value in considering contrasting opinions. You deepen your mind and critical thinking abilities as you learn more perspectives about an issue; in fact, you learn more about your own values and build your credibility. You become more you.
Logan, however, did not provide various ideas to support her own arguments. Instead, she intimidated me, as well as other Smith Scholars. According to Google, intimidation means “to frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants.”
Logan intimidated us by ensuring we submitted to her ideology. She created an environment that did not promote differing opinions or respectful discussion. Rather, she followed her opening rhetorical questions with how unafraid she is of the Liberal media. She expressed her lack of interest of what they accuse her of being and instead has found peace in knowing herself. She repeatedly stated that the Liberal media does not report truth. And she reinforced the importance of diversity of thought without ever acknowledging any benefits or insights gained from the left wing.
What Logan did not speak were words of denial. “No, I’m not a white supremacist. No, I’m not homophobic. No, I’m not anti-Semitic.”
Sometimes what isn’t said is more important than what is said.
Moreover, the emotions we feel don’t always reflect the behavior we display.
This is indicative of what I experienced on Oct. 15. Logan made multiple racist statements, but as a Chinese individual, I want to focus on the comments regarding Chinese and Japanese people. Since this topic can be triggering, I want to include a brief synopsis of what was said. At some point in her talk, Logan started discussing foreign travel and cultural differences. She then made statements about Chinese and Japanese people while clearly stereotyping and perpetrating a superior attitude as a Caucasian woman.
The following paragraph includes more details, but if you don’t want to read the specifics of the incident, please skip over to that following paragraph.
Logan specifically said that Chinese and Japanese people always take photos of Americans when they travel to China and Japan. She stated how absurd this is, making fun of Asians with their cameras constantly upon their faces. As Americans, she explained, we have a right to mock and laugh at them, because they are silly to look at.
I was sitting in the very front of the room when she made these comments. My body was in shock; it filled with anger and shame. I knew I mattered, but it didn’t feel like it. I wanted to speak up but couldn’t. My mind was shouting to leave the conference room. Leave Cintas. Leave campus. Yet I remained silent in my chair. Why?
Logan’s superior, intimidating attitude forced me to stay quiet. It is in this environment of fear and dominance where I felt invalidated. At that moment, Logan took my power of using my voice.
I write this opinion piece to ensure Xavier University’s awareness that guest speakers with discriminatory, racist language should not be invited.
There needs to be a better vetting process when having guest speakers on campus. Guest speakers are usually brought to campus to encourage thoughtful discussion and promote an open enviorment for critical-thinking environment. Lara Logan, however, did none of that.
I recognize the importance of hearing all perspectives, but there is a constraint. It is one instance to host someone who shares contradictory views from your own. It is another instance to host someone whose speech creates an uncomfortable, harmful environment. For example, I applaud the Smith Center when they hosted Michael Tanner, author of The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor. The policy suggestions in the book did not necessarily align with my views, but it broadened my mind and challenged me to consider other perspectives.
However, the statements Logan made were damaging, albeit some more harmful than others. As the only Asian person in the Smith Scholar program, I wanted to share this incident as a way to tell anyone in underrepresented groups that you matter. I see you, sitting in a classroom that is majority White and perhaps male. I see you feeling out of place and thinking you don’t belong. My advice to you is that you shouldn’t let anyone you don’t respect have power over you. Easier said than done, but let us all consider that for the future.
I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t acknowledge an insight I gained from Logan’s talk. The only statement which resonated with me is: You must own your identity once you know who you are.
I am a Chinese woman whose voice matters.
Now I have been heard.
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