Durham County

He's been called 'racist, misogynist, and transphobic.' Should he speak at DPAC?

Jordan Peterson during a lecture on January 10, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Zuma Press/TNS)
Jordan Peterson during a lecture on January 10, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Zuma Press/TNS)

Controversial Canadian professor and "culture critic" Jordan B. Peterson is coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center in September, and not everyone is happy about it.

Peterson, who has garnered a following for his YouTube commentary, wrote the self-help book "12 Rule for Life: An Antidote to Chaos." The New Yorker described Peterson's ideas as a "gospel of masculinity." The Washington Post described his audience as generally young, white men.

The Durham City Council wrote a statement, shared on Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson's Facebook page Friday afternoon, saying members "respect Mr. Peterson’s right to hold his opinions and to freely state his opinions without government interference."

"However, we wish to emphasize that a person’s right to free speech does not include the right to a platform or an audience," the statement continued. "As many in our community have been disturbed and angered by Mr. Peterson’s racist, misogynist, and transphobic views, we would like to use this opportunity to reiterate our commitments and values to all of you as your elected representatives."

The letter, which goes on to describe the inclusiveness of Durham, is signed by Mayor Steve Schewel and all the other members of the City Council: Vernetta Alston, Javiera Caballero, DeDreana Freeman, Mark-Anthony Middleton and Charlie Reece.

Indy Week, the alternative weekly based in Durham, wrote an open letter to DPAC about the announcement of Peterson coming to the performing arts venue downtown. It called out Peterson for saying that white privilege isn't real and showed examples of his ideas as "what racism looks like" as well as misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. The statement shared by Johnson was in response to the Indy Week post.

The Indy's post asked DPAC to rescind its invitation to Peterson. In its letter, the City Council noted that while the city owns DPAC, "the theater’s management companies, Nederlander [and] PFM, are entirely responsible for the choice of shows and performers who appear at the venue."

DPAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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In Bull City Politics, Durham reporter Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan tells you what's going on in Durham and what your elected leaders are doing. Follow on Twitter at @dawnbvaughan and #BullCitypol.

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