I first crossed paths with Coleman at a conference that previous guest Jonathan Haidt organized on promoting viewpoint diversity in academia. I hosted a breakfast panel discussion. Coleman spoke on a panel later that day. He shared views that sounded reasonable and well-expressed, but I also knew social media mobs attacked him, though not often engaged. You hear about situations like that. I wanted to bring someone on who had weathered such storms.
Partly, you’ve heard me talking more about race. My next book covers race a lot, so I’ve had to practice developing my voice in an area I’ve seen people lose their careers. Coleman didn’t. On the contrary, he recently spoke to the US Congress on reparations, opposite another well-known writer on similar subjects with different views, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
In our conversation you’ll hear his experience choosing to publicly take on subjects knowing that internet mobs might attack him, being attacked, withstanding it, and coming out stronger for it. I ask his advice on my considering doing so. Not many people take on these challenges and emerge stronger for it. His experience helped me to follow in his footsteps since then.
It’s crazy to think of how we live in times that everyone seems to recognize as suppressing open discussion—that is, our time seems like future historians, should we not destroy ourselves, will look at as historic low in terms of open exchange of ideas, understanding, listening.
If we do destroy ourselves, our lack of open exchange probably will have contributed to not finding a solution.