As conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s presence on campus was met by protesters in St. Paul, about 40 people gathered on the West Bank at the University of Minnesota to hear presentations and discuss ideas opposing Shapiro’s view.
The event, called “White Supremacy in the Age of Trump: An Anti-Racist Teach-In,” sold out its 104-person venue a week ago. It featured about 30 minutes of presentations, while the rest was dialogue and discussion.
The discussion was from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., before Shapiro spoke on the St. Paul campus.
Noël Gordon Jr., a dual-degree master’s student in the Humphrey School and the Carlson School of Management and a co-sponsor of the event, said when he found out about Shapiro’s on-campus talk, he decided to organize Monday’s teach-in to address the rhetoric used by Lauren Southern in October and Shapiro.
“Ben Shapiro’s views are out of touch with the Minneapolis-Twin Cities community that I have come to know,” he said.
Gordon said the event was intended to speak to the same causes addressed by protesters in St. Paul preceding the Ben Shapiro talk.
The discussions at Humphrey centered around the realities people of color experience and how many feel their narratives are excluded by conservative speakers such as Shapiro.
Gordon said he hopes the event laid the groundwork for future events involving peaceful and productive discussions about racial justice work.
Amy Tran, a member of the Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America, said she came to the event because she had never heard of a teach-in and wanted to engage with other like-minded people in racial justice conversation.
During her small group discussion, Tran spoke with her group about the lack of conservatives and Shapiro-supporters at the teach-in.
“I think there should be a foundational understanding that was outlined before. White supremacy exists, racism exists,” she said. “As long as those people have that foundation, I believe there is more opportunity for them to learn from events like this.”
Two attendees of the event, community members Jack Dorcey and Matt Stice, are supporters of Shapiro.
Dorsey said he and Stice came to the event after seeing Gordon’s letter to the editor in the Minnesota Daily criticizing Shapiro, and wanted to hear an opposing perspective.
Dorsey added that he was pleasantly surprised by the small group discussion because he thought he and Stice might be kicked out for having opposing opinions.
He said he disagreed with many of Gordon’s main points, which he thought were misconceptions about Shapiro taken out of context.
“Ben Shapiro … wants to hear that other side,” Dorsey said. “That’s what we need more of, is hearing that other side.”