I have been trying to get my thoughts about the issue of campus sensitivity and regressivism onto paper for a while now. Don’t get me wrong, I have always had plenty to say on the issue, but my difficulty so far has been with capturing an authentic indignation after so many controversies. The reality is, it’s boring to stay angry at kids I don’t know. After a while, the incidents start to blur in our collective minds, and one can almost read the script each time college students are paraded in front of the media: an innocuous incident sparks a controversy, adult children go ballistic, adult children stage a protest, adult children violate civil liberties, and so the story goes. There comes a certain point, however, where one is obliged by their moral grounding to speak out against such abject dogma. I’ve come to realize that the issue is not going away—not by itself. So at the risk of inciting the ire of those determined to be outraged, here is my opinion.
I am offended. It might come as a surprise to some, but regressives and professional victims are not the only ones who can claim this right nor “appropriate” it as their mantra. The right of offense is endowed to us all, and for those of us who believe strongly in liberty and rule of law, this past year or so of scandal has been quite offensive indeed. The unjust firing of professors who express their views offends me. The protests against free speech at universities like Yale offends me. The destruction of college property and the malicious sabotaging of classes offends me. They offend me in my deepest sense of ethics and propriety. They are, at best, intellectual dishonesties and, at worst, crimes. This much is obvious to me and anyone else with a casual appreciation for our constitution. Yet few are willing to speak honestly about the state of our college campuses for fear of being labeled a bigot. Anecdotally, I can attest that many of those who are skeptical of this new trend avoid the topic altogether, fearing an uncomfortable conversation. Well, not me. I don’t care what anyone calls me. I am ready to speak my mind, so profound is my offense. I maintain that the wave of sensitivity that has spread through the halls of universities across America is a cancer upon our free democracy. And for such grave offenses to our shared notions of liberty, I would like to bring to the table a list of charges.
I charge those who support speech codes of racism. Let’s think for a moment about what these rules are. They ban words. They suppress opinions. They sanction costumes. They limit our freedom of expression. All done, of course, with the intention of making minorities feel safe. Thanks, but no thanks. We cannot forget the many who have died to afford people of all backgrounds the right to engage in debate as equals. To suggest that we now willfully remove ourselves or any other group of people from the open marketplace of ideas is utterly contemptible. The open marketplace of ideas is rife with prejudice and discrimination. After all, we are living in a country that still bears the scars of white supremacy and genocide. Are we going to close our eyes to this fact and run to the administration every time we feel oppressed? To do so is to train for a world which shares our sensitivities and progressive ideals. In other words, to train for a world which does not exist. So what if someone is wearing a Pocahontas costume? Must we all sit around and pretend that this is the greatest tragedy in America? I have not been properly convinced (with data) that insensitive costumes are at all damaging, but that’s beside the point. If such displays are all it takes to send our future leaders into hysteria, we are in trouble. I hope for the emotional sake of these students that no one teaches them about the Holocaust, or hands them a copy of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, or shows them a clip of Donald Trump for that matter. Discrimination exists. Racism exists. The good news is that our society is becoming more egalitarian with each passing decade. Yet we cannot shield ourselves from the real world as it stands today. And doing so for the sake of sparing the hurt feelings of minorities is more than infantilizing; it is racist. It perpetuates the belief that minorities are weaker than white people. You might remember what Coach Boone said to his assistant in Remember the Titans. He chastised him for treating black players less harshly than white players, stating, “You ain’t doin’ these kids a favor by patronizing them. You crippling them; You crippling them for life.” I stand with Coach Boone. Minorities don’t need speech codes.
I charge those who interrupt speeches, who halt highway traffic, and who block airline travel of disturbing the peace and violating the individual liberties of all Americans. I will be blunt when I say that those who participate in such demonstrations should be arrested. It is intolerable that the sensitivities of our college-led movements be responsible for impeding the freedom of people to speak openly in a planned forum, the freedom of people to travel, and the freedom of families to gather for the holidays. What if that airline is prevented from sending someone to see a loved one for the last time? What if that highway was needed for an ambulance on its way to the hospital? What if the speaker that was silenced could change the course of history? These incidents are not legitimate protests. They are seditious instances of intimidation (and possibly criminality) that should be met with our collective scorn.
I charge the group known as Concerned Student 1950 with violating the spirit of the first amendment, which protects, among other things, the freedom of the press. In a video segment which has gone viral, this offence is well documented, as protesters physically intimidate photographers reporting on the scene. The conduct of the faculty in this video is shocking. Not so shocking is the platform on which Concerned Student 1950 stands, which includes racial quotas and mandatory sensitivity indoctrination. By what right do members of our community claim that all of Bates College #standswithmizzou? I renounce this solidarity. Not in my name. Concerned Student 1950, your flippancy of liberty, your false accusations, and your racist policy agenda have gone noticed, and I refuse to be bullied into feigning support for you.
Finally, I charge a certain segment of us so-called “underprivileged” minorities of masochism. This charge is against those of us who would relish in the false comfort of political correctness and for those of us who would embrace victimhood. The behavior is most apparent when we choose to tolerate phrases of false sympathy. I call them condescension clauses: “As a white person I can’t possibly know how you feel but…”, or “Understanding that I come from a privileged background…”, and “Recognizing that I am an only man…” We don’t need any condescension clauses. We don’t need privilege checks. We don’t need safe spaces. Shame on us while we demand them of others. They cement racial and ethnic boundaries while subverting our own arguments in the open marketplace of ideas. Let us judge arguments by their content and not by the color of the people making them.
Stating these charges has been as therapeutic for me as I hope it has been thought-provoking for you. I urge those of you with open minds to consider strongly the deplorable conduct of those students involved in these movements. I am always anxious to entertain reasonable criticism. But for those of you who would respond to my charges with identity politics and appeals to privilege, you are the problem and your critiques are not welcome. Not in my safe space.