After looming controversy and an uproar of protests, conservative commentator and author Ben Shapiro lectured an audience of 1,500 people on the legacy of slavery at Boston University Wednesday night. His appearance was hosted by the Boston University chapter of the conservative youth activism organization, the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), and was objected by the 200+ students who marched up and down the campus.
Shapiro spent much of his talk outlining that “America Wasn’t Built on Slavery, it was Built on Freedom.” He continued by stating “If America was founded on slavery, why then is America today so free? Why is Black BU protesting outside this event, free to speak their minds, attending one of the best universities in the country, if slavery is the defining feature of the American experience?”
Shapiro argued that liberals see America as “an agglomeration of competing interests, forced together by circumstance and fate, damned to interminable struggle.” He pointed out that slavery was widespread across the globe, and the founding fathers who voiced opposition to slavery said the practice destroys the “morals of the people.” He then stated that America is “one of the least racist multiracial countries today,” citing Barack Obama’s two terms as president.
Toward the end of his speech, he derided the idea that “every single problem in America today is based on slavery,” asking, “Are teens in Chicago today killing each other at rapid rates because of slavery?”
His opening remarks acknowledged the crowd of protesters outside of the event exercising freedom of speech stating “the lecture that I’m giving is almost pointless, because if America were built on slavery, not freedom, then we wouldn’t have a bunch of protestors outside exercising that freedom—and good for them,” he said, noting the 20 degree weather. He continued, “that’s Boston strong right there, good for them.”
Shapiro, who many spoke out against and has been a target of white supremacists, responded to a letter written by Black BU, a Boston University minority group protesting him from speaking on campus. Shapiro stated in his opening, “no thanks to the leftists who sought to have this lecture canceled out of apparent fear of [his] wretched evil.”
Early in Shapiro’s speech, he was interrupted by vocal protesters yelling “racist, sexist, anti-gay! Ben Shapiro go away!” but were quickly escorted out by police while the crowd chanted “Kick them out! Kick them out!”
Under heavy security provided by the Boston University police, Boston police, and a private security firm hired by the University, attendees were patted down and searched while entering the premises. Streets were shut down as police force lined the surrounding area, restricting public entrance.
The YAF distributed free tickets to the event to 1,000 BU students, faculty, and staff, and 500 were distributed on a first-come-first-served basis to the general public.