Reason Podcast

The Importance of Uncomfortable Conversations

Uncensored author and new college grad Zachary R. Wood explains why his generation is so scared of viewpoint diversity.


Zachary R. Wood came to national attention when, as a undergraduate at ultra-liberal Williams College, the student group that he helped lead was pressured to cancel its invitation to Suzanne Venker, a conservative author and critic of feminism.

Activists accused him of "causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm" to his fellow students, and "paying for…the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters." After he invited the former National Review writer John Derbyshire to speak, the university president unilaterally shut the event down.

The self-described "liberal Democrat" and Hillary Clinton supporter says his commitment to open dialogue comes from dealing with his mother's mental illness, his frequent moves as a child, and being a black scholarship student at mostly white, wealthy schools. "I was coming from a disadvantaged community and going to a school in a more affluent community and that meant I had to be open and making friends with peers from very different backgrounds." He notes that he and his new schoolmates were quick to project both negative and positive stereotypes on one another. "Part of what that experience challenged me to do was to assess those stereotypes and resist the inclination to make them."

In Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America, Wood writes about the urgent need for civil discourse and open debate, especially on college campuses. The recent graduate talked with Reason about how administrators are as much or more to blame as student activists for the repressive atmosphere at universities, and why he looks forward to exploring issues of class mobility and how school choice can benefit low-income minorities in his work as a journalist.

Edited by Ian Keyser. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Kevin Alexander.

'Machinery' by Kai Engel is licensed under CC BY NC 4.0

Photo Credits:

Russ R. Scott/newzulu/Newscom

Jeremy Hogan/Polaris/Newscom

Wu Xiaoling Xinhua News Agency/Newscom

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  1. I do hope his optimism isn’t smacked out of him as he moves on in the world. His message is great.

    1. If he was disappointed with the Academy’s commitment to open dialogue, I don’t think he will be any happier with corporate America.

      1. Whoa.

        You’re telling me corporate America opposes free speech?

        *cancels planned meeting to tell boss she is a useless cunt*


        …I don’t think my boss is actually a woman. Or is a useless cunt. But I don’t know this person all that well.

    2. If it didn’t get smacked out of him during college then he’s probably good.

  2. You can’t have a true progressive socialist slave state if there is free and open discussions.
    Only our beloved elites ruling over us are prudent enough to know what conversations are to be held, what is to be said and what conclusions are to be drawn from said discourse.
    Free speech only impedes our path to socialist revolution and delaying our commitment to turning America into Venezuela.
    So, get with it people, and let’s stop all this nonsense about free speech.

    1. “You can’t have a true progressive socialist slave state if there is free and open discussions.”

      PAY the man!

  3. I’m a member of Gen X and I often wonder if mine was the last generation where older kids/young adults took a certain amount of pride in being at least a little bit “tough.”

    Whether you were a boy or a girl, most people I knew would feel extremely insulted if anyone implied that merely HEARING something that was not in agreement with their own current viewpoint would somehow result in psychological or even physical harm. People didn’t see themselves as that fragile.

    I wonder what changed so profoundly that virtually every male and female (and trans person) these days is expected to be extremely wimpy and emotionally frail from the get go.

    1. The notion of “harm” was of course a ruse to just shut up someone you don’t agree with. Or at least it started out that way, but now as you suggest I suspect many have come to actually believe they truly are being harmed by sights and sounds not in accordance with The Narrative.

    2. I wonder what changed so profoundly that virtually every male and female (and trans person) these days is expected to be extremely wimpy and emotionally frail from the get go.

      In a nutshell, victimhood culture.

      1. But was that chicken, or egg?

    3. Man, I remember back in 2014-15 or so when there were only two genders. What dangerous times those were.

      1. I remember even further back when they were called two sexes.

        1. There still is.
          It is just that some sites will “moderate” you if you use the word s.e.x.

    4. People were plenty fragile back in the “good old days.”

      They banned miscegenation and birth control, punished flag-burning and blasphemy.

      They put religion in the pledge of allegiance, prayer in schools, fairy tales in science classes.

      They compelled black men to lower their gaze in the company of white women, lynched boys for wandering eyes.

      They banned music from Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Loretta Lynn, and the Doors. (Worse, they permitted music from Pat Boone.)

      White children weren’t permitted to share fountains or playgrounds with black children. White ballplayers were excused from competing with better black players.

      They banned Huck Finn, Call Of The Wild, Tom Sawyer, The Great Gatsby; John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Aldous Huxley, Upton Sinclair.

      They were snowflakes, wimps, yahoos, and pussies.

      1. They were snowflakes, wimps, yahoos, and pussies.

        They also killed actual Nazis and Communists, unlike the Antifa LARPers and Boomer shitlibs who don’t have the guts to do the former and are fellow travelers with the latter.

      2. “They” of course being at least an even mixture of Democrats and Republicans. Or, if talking about south of the Mason-Dixon line, then mostly Democrats. Thank goodness libertarians and classical liberals came along to oppose such nonsense.

      3. “They banned music from Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Loretta Lynn, and the Doors.”

        No wonder I’ve never heard of any of these groups, the censorship was so effective!

        “They banned Huck Finn, Call Of The Wild, Tom Sawyer, The Great Gatsby; John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Aldous Huxley, Upton Sinclair.”

        Ah, you mean “didn’t teach these books in government schools.” Meaning there was a better chance kids wuld appreciate these works without the stigma of having some government employee cram them down their throats (to borrow a term from the rev).

    5. I don’t think it’s generational. I’m a boomer and I have seen boomers express the same attitude that they’ve been “damaged” by speech. It’s just an attitude that people cop to shut down opinions they disagree with.

    6. I have a theory.

      The Boomers were born into a boom that followed long-term deprivation and hardship. The psychological effects of that were that the Boomer’ s parents spoiled them a bit. They hadn’t had much as kids themselves, and now that times were good they wanted to soften the world’s edges for the Boomer kids.

      Not much. Certainly not by today’s standards.

      But then the Boomers grew up and had kids. And the Boomers had struggles of their own, and also enough success to feel prosperous, so they, too, spoiled Gen-X. Nothing too much, again – and yet a softness had entered the norm.

      Then the 90’s happened. People had been so prosperous for so long, with juuuuust enough scrabbling to think we’d grown wise in the ways of the world, that we thought good times were our birthright. That’s what the Millenials parents – late in life youngest children of Boomers, or Gen-Xers – taught them.

      Stability breeds fragility. We did so well, we forgot the work it took to get us there.

  4. Dude they are not scared, they are hateful. Living with an SJW, they don’t see other viewpoints as frightening, they see them as illegitimate

  5. After he invited the former National Review writer John Derbyshire to speak, the university president unilaterally shut the event down.

    ENB would punch that guy.

  6. Wood writes about the urgent need for civil discourse and open debate, especially on college campuses.

    The message sounds good, but likely is aimed poorly.

    I predict that the book focuses on criticism of our strongest, liberal-libertarian, mainstream colleges and universities while ignoring the hundreds of conservative-controlled campuses shackled by censorship, conduct codes, loyalty oaths, suppression of science, viewpoint discrimination (everything from hiring to admissions, administration to student groups), speech codes, punishment of dissent, and the teaching of dogmatic nonsense.

    I hope I am wrong.

    1. I hope I am wrong.

      “Being wrong” is basically your natural state so you should be used to it by now.

      1. If he is correct…then is when we should worry.

        I mean, he’s managed to avoid the “blind squirrel finding a nut” thing for a long, long time.

        1. If the book is well balanced it will devote some attention to action taken against leftist speech on campuses and serious attempts to that end. This will mostly be about anti-Semitic or other of the most over-the-top extremist speech from professors. On the other hand there is no particular virtue in a book’s distorting the prominence of such incidents, since they are dwarfed by threats to free speech from the left. There are no “conservative-controlled campuses” in the United States other than seminaries and similar institutions (e.g. Liberty University); these are justly ignored by campus free-speech watchdogs because they are private institutions with an explicit sense of purpose, that do not profess standard liberal academic freedom values in the first place.

    2. “conduct codes”

      Conduct codes? Thank goodness our best universities don’t have *those*!

  7. Nuke universities today.

  8. if only someone would have an uncomfortable conversation with open borders nicky.

  9. There’s this phony preacher who has been posting on here called Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland.

    He claims to a roaming reverend associated with the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name.

    Well, so happens I have a distant uncle who is associated with the church and knows all the ins and out, and I asked him about the general duties of a reverend in the church.

    The first thing he said – a reverend must know how to handle snakes

    Well, I asked the so called Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland about his snake handling abilities.

    He hasn’t replied because he knows that I know that he’s as phony as Bark Obama’s peace prize .

  10. CoExist Bro, CoExist , celebrate the diversity with dolphins and rainbow colored flags or something similar.

    1. Coexistence is no existence I want any part of. I love to debate. It started when I became an atheist at 8 and my parents begged me to stop discussing god with my friends. Seems they were going home and asking questions that put their parents on the hot seat. My parents said we would have to move if I didn’t stop. I did, but I didn’t like it.

      They had backed me when I got expelled from 3rd grade for asking questions my teachers couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. Also, I refused to participate in the “Pledge…”. My parents both worked two jobs each to get us out the ghetto so I had to wait 4 years before we moved. I was happy to get away from the street gangs. But I missed the chess club I dominated.

      The new school/teachers? Same as the old school. What a boring waste of time. I sometimes think the cruelest time of my life was when I was treated like a slave. The emotional pain was worse than physical pain. I built up a lot of anger I was unaware of until I started hunting. I took it out on the animals. I got over it by spending long days in the forest/field alone. The anger finally went away and one day I couldn’t kill anymore. Theroux was right. The woods are a great place to work on anger issues.

      1. voluntaryist,
        Where and in what time frame were you “treated like a slave”? I’m not trying to argue or start something, I truly wish to know. I grew up in Texas – born in ’51 and graduated HS in ’69 – and I was not aware of anyone being “treated like a slave”. But then I am of European descent and grew up poorer than dirt.

  11. Well, he can be prepared to be maligned forever.

  12. An ambitious man injects himself into the campus “inclusion” debate sensing opportunity. He only slipped in one fact and it was false. R.e. Murray, “you can’t base intelligence on one study”. Of course not, but Murray didn’t do that.

  13. You can pick up some conversation starters to get to know their problem

  14. you can come up with good questions to make the uncomfortable conversation worth your time

  15. Thanks for sharing you point of view of Uncomfortable Conversations and its importance for current generations who is bit scared or feeling awkward to talk about uncensored topics despite being a free minded ad unbounded to old regulations.


  16. Zachary you are a great fellow, keep it up! I wish you to continue to fight for the free expression of your thoughts. Nowadays, people like to silence each other or avoid information that they do not want to hear, but when such people take leadership positions they deprive their subordinates of this information, that is, they take responsibility for deciding for others what they need, and what is not – it already looks like some kind of dictatorship … Thank God that YouTube is full of videos from famous activists who manage to resist and teach such ignoramuses. I found many such videos there and most of the channels on which they were posted had a minimum 70 thousand subscribers. I’m sure their authors used to buy subscribers.

  17. Yeah, I know that is very important for man’s character. I would make video about it. Thank you for this podcast. I will upload this video on tiktok cause I know how to get likes from here

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