“You’re telling me I’m being sensitive, and students looking for safe spaces that they’re being hypersensitive. If you’re white, this country is one giant safe space.” — Michael Eric Dyson
Is political correctness an enemy of free speech, open debate, and the free exchange of ideas? Or, by confronting head-on the dominant power relationships and social norms that exclude marginalized groups are we creating a more equitable and just society? For some the argument is clear. Political correctness is stifling the free and open debate that fuels our democracy. It is also needlessly dividing one group from another and promoting social conflict. Others insist that creating public spaces and norms that give voice to previously marginalized groups broadens the scope of free speech. The drive towards inclusion over exclusion is essential to creating healthy, diverse societies in an era of rapid social change.
The twenty-second semi-annual Munk Debate, held on May 18, 2018, pits acclaimed journalist, professor, and ordained minister Michael Eric Dyson and New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg against renowned actor and writer Stephen Fry and University of Toronto professor and author Jordan Peterson to debate the implications of political correctness and freedom of speech.
Michael Eric Dyson is an author, professor, and broadcaster. He grew up in Detroit, becoming an ordained minister at nineteen and working in factories to support his family. Dyson started college at twenty-one and went on to earn a Ph.D. in religious studies from Princeton University. Currently, Dyson is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, host of “The Michael Eric Dyson Show” on NPR, contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and contributing editor for the New Republic and ESPN’s website The Undefeated.
Michelle Goldberg was born in Buffalo, New York, and holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a columnist for the New York Times, a journalist, and bestselling author who writes about identity, culture, and politics.
Stephen Fry is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, and film director. He was born in London and studied English literature at the University of Cambridge. Fry has also written and presented several documentary series, including the Emmy Award-winning “Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive” and “Stephen Fry: Out There,” a two-part documentary about the lives of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender people around the world. Fry has been married to comedian Elliott Spencer since 2015 and has advocated for the rights of the LGBTQ community for thirty years.
Jordan Peterson grew up in Fairview, Alberta, northwest of Edmonton, and received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from McGill University. He is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, a clinical psychologist, and the author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.