Guest: UC Davis had a white supremacist and Nazi speak on college radio. Let that sink in.

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KDVS allows Richard Spencer to promote racism and genocide

On Feb. 5, an event occurred here on campus that should be regarded by the entire community of UC Davis as a severe hate incident. A staff member of the UC Davis radio station KDVS provided a notorious white supremacist and Nazi, Richard Spencer, a platform to spew his bigoted hatred and promote genocide.

With a flood of reports on the increased presence of white supremacists and Nazis on U.S. campuses and the growing toleration of white supremacist ideas on a daily basis, we did not think that a member within our community would decide to aid and abet this dangerous uptick in bigotry by conducting a so-called interview with Spencer.

Until quite recently, before a wave of white nationalism had swept the country and indeed the world, such an interview would have been well beyond the pale. When last did The Aggie give a platform to genocide as an intriguing idea worth debating? When last did KDVS interview a Holocaust denier?

Well, last week it happened right here in Davis, California: A white supremacist and Nazi spoke on college radio, promoting and recruiting. Unfortunately, thanks to this incident and other across the country, it is now within the accepted spectrum of ideas with which students of UC Davis engage. And make no mistake, this precedent has dangerous implications for the well being of the non-white members of this community.

We write this letter as UC Davis alumni who watch with dread the specter of white nationalism and Nazism rear its ugly head on campus. We write this letter as Jews, remembering our family members who were murdered by the Nazis in Europe. We write this letter as immigrants to this country, fearing for the safety of future generations. Nazism is about genocide. If you think giving platforms to Nazis is more important than protecting students, you are prioritizing the right of Nazis to promote genocide over the safety of UC Davis students.

A liberal-minded listener, who is not a target of this form of bigotry, might have been listening to the interview as he was lounging comfortably in his armchair, blowing smoke from his pipe, applauding rational discussion, perhaps sneering, “How ridiculous the ideas of white supremacists! How lacking in depth!”

But when people of color on campus hear this, they hear death. When Jewish people on campus hear this, they hear death. When people who identify as LGBTQ hear this, they hear death. Could you imagine what it feels like to be Jewish and hear Nazis recruiting through your own university’s radio station? To hear the host constantly thanking and showing his respect for a leader of white nationalism?

The so-called “free marketplace of ideas” did not save the Jews from the Nazis. Nazis use freedom of speech to destroy it. They should not be legitimated as simply just another political group. Ideas that undermine the basic dignity and deny the humanity of people have no place on our campus — or in the broader public sphere for that matter.  

We urge UC Davis and all those who care about the university and well-being of the Davis community to take steps toward accountability, beginning with removing all people involved in this disconcerting incident from KDVS radio.

Our parents sometimes ask us about anti-Semitism in the U.S., and we usually reassure them that America is still a safe place for Jews. What about the future? We are not so sure anymore.


Both writers graduated from UC Davis in 2016 with Ph.D.s in history. Eran Zelnik is a historian of early America; Elad Alyagon is a historian of Imperial China and a current postdoctoral student in UC Davis’ Department of History.


Written by: Eran Zelnik and Elad Alyagon

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