Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation gave a presentation entitled “Black Lives Matter In and Out of the Womb” at the evangelical Wheaton College (in Wheaton, Ill.) on November 14. He was the guest of the Wheaton College Republicans. Bomberger’s talk criticized BLM leadership for announcing its solidarity with Planned Parenthood, the “leading killer of black lives.” Bomberger is a biracial African American conceived in rape, adopted, and then raised in a mixed-race family. He responded to the allegations in the letter by saying that Rowley, Waaler, and Shields had demonized him, and said he had been told that only Shields among the three signatories had attended his talk.
“I would think it would be against the college’s mission to intentionally mislead students,” Bomberger wrote in response to the student leaders’ backlash against him.
“I am a person of color, a clarifying fact which you conveniently left out of your letter of denouncement. I was primarily presenting a perspective of those who are never heard, always underrepresented, and are actually unsafe — the unborn,” he said.
“For anyone—student, faculty, or staff— to claim that they were ‘unheard’ or ‘underrepresented’ obviously didn’t stay for the 25 minutes of Q&A that followed or the additional 30 minutes that I stayed and responded to more thoughtful questions as well as some baseless (and even hostile) accusations,” Bomberger added. “For anyone to claim they felt ‘unsafe’ by anything that I said is unfortunate and simply hyperbole.”
“Are students at Wheaton taught to fear or taught to think?” the anti-abortion, pro-adoption activist asked.
It appears to be a good question. The three can send out whatever silly and lingually nonsensical message they want, but after watching the presentation, it’s hard to see how the crux of the complaint can be defended, or even understood, unless it is written in some kind of code. So what if the speech made people uncomfortable? Since when is feeling uncomfortable with positions one does not agree with or that do not comport with one’s assumptions and biases a bad thing, or justification for a complaint, especially on a college campus?
In the context of Bomberger’s speech, what does “unrepresented, unheard and unsafe” mean? It can’t mean that African-Americans were unrepresented, since the sole speaker was African-American. It can’t mean that dissenting voices weren’t heard, because there was an opportunity to respond to and question the speaker.
What definition that obviously has nothing to do with actual safety does “unsafe” carry in this kind of context? A speaker who is not threatening violence but is merely stating a moral, ethical or political position can’t possibly make a listener feel literally unsafe, unless something is wrong with the listener. Nobody is or should be “safe” from having their beliefs challenged in this country, and the whole point of attending college is to be challenged, as well as to be able to defend ones’ position using rhetoric, logic, and critical thought.
It’s disappointing that Bomberger, in his fiery response, says that he’s seeking legal action for “slander.” First of all, if anything the letter would be libel, but mainly “I’ll sue you!” is a tactic designed to chill speech and punish dissent. He’s better than that. The letter is close to res ipsa loquitur, as it is self-debunking by its whiny premise and equivocal wording. “Troubled’? What in the presentation was worthy of evoking such a reaction? What was the “offensive rhetoric”? (The presentation has no offensive rhetoric at all, just argumnents and points of view that apparently offend those intellectually or emotionally incapable of rebutting them. The letter isn’t a rebuttal. It’s an expression of anger that anyone would dare to challenge cant.
The topic of Bomberger’s presentation is irrelevant to the unethical nature of Wheaton’s response. That letter would be unethical in response to any civil presentation with a Q and A at the end on any topic.
Are students at Wheaton taught to think? Does Wheaton want them to think?