"Do We Have To Fight Nazis Again?” asks historian Paul Ortiz

Historians in the News
tags: racism, Nazi, Richard Spencer, white supremacist, Paul Ortiz

Thumbnail Image -  By Vas Panagiotopoulos, CC BY 2.0

White nationalist Richard Spencer is set to speak at the University of Florida on Oct. 19.

In response, Paul Ortiz, an associate professor of history at UF whose research includes African-American studies and social movements, co-wrote an op-edabout Spencer that appeared in the Gainesville Sun on Friday.

The op-ed highlights the dangers of letting Spencer speak, including how it creates an unsafe work environment for employees of the university.

Ortiz also conveyed his thoughts on Spencer’s appearance and ideology with WUFT News by phone earlier today.

What do you think about Richard Spencer coming to visit?

Ortiz: I think that, as a historian, one of the topics I teach is about the rise of the Holocaust, the rise of fascism, and Nazism in the ’20s and ’30s, so I think it’s deeply regrettable.

You can look at the United Faculty of Florida. We put out a letter that we sent to President [Kent] Fuchs back when the individual was going to visit originally in September, and our position on it is that it constitutes a potential worker-safety issue and the fact that we’re having to spend half a million, which is an indirect honorarium, which also implies that there is potential for unsafe working conditions.

So our opinions as a faculty union is that this event is a violation of working safety protections. Federal law is very clear on this issue: The employer is responsible for maintaining a safe work environment at all times, and therefore, this event, we believe, violates several labor laws because you have thousands of employees at the University of Florida.

President Fuchs encouraged students to stay away from the event. Do you agree with his position, or do you think counterprotests and demonstrations would be more effective?

Ortiz: I am telling my students … that we are not going to be holding class that day. I have a lot of students that I work with who are Jewish and students of color. I can not in good conscious ask them to be on campus that day in terms of a protest. That is someone’s individual right and responsibility, and I think that I support the work of students on campus and people in the community who feel that it’s important to bear witness and to protest the appearance [of] a person who advocated ethnic cleansing.

I think history states very clearly and speaks very loudly on this: You can not ignore evil. If you ignore it, you are complicit. This is the lesson the people of Italy learned in the 1920s and the people of Germany learned in the 1930s. Because back then, there were individuals and leaders who said, ‘Oh, just ignore Adolph Hitler. He’s so unreasonable. People will eventually learn about how wicked he is and then they’ll go away.’

And unfortunately, the world does not work like that, and so I respect people who say that they’re planning to be out of town and people are even going to be out of the state that day. They’re leaving Gainesville, and that’s fine. That’s their individual decision, but at the same time, I think we should be supportive of people who have the courage to stand up to evil.

Read entire article at WUFT

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