I don’t know if you heard about the latest shocking sign of oppression in the United States. Recently, at Emory University, someone traumatized the students by … writing “Trump 2016″ in chalk in various places.
Here they are, in their own words:
“We are in pain,” one student said at a rally, according to The Emory Wheel, a student newspaper. “I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school,” a second student reportedly said.
“The students shared with me their concern that these messages were meant to intimidate rather than merely to advocate for a particular candidate,” [Emory President] Wagner said in a statement released Tuesday. “During our conversation, they voiced their genuine concern and pain in the face of this perceived intimidation…. I cannot dismiss their expression of feelings and concern as motivated only by political preference or over-sensitivity.”
“I legitimately feared for my life,” a freshman who identifies as Latino told The Daily Beast. Another student told the publication, “Some of us were expecting shootings. We feared walking alone.”
To be fair to the students, they claim that this is but once incident in a series of racial incidents (although it’s not clear what those incidents are or how serious they were). But … here’s their draft letter on the incident. It makes it very clear that what they are objecting to is the content of the graffiti.
In the early morning of Monday, March 21st, a student or group of students vandalized spaces across campus with messages supporting a candidate for president who is the figurehead of hate, racisim, xenophobia and sexism in America. In doing so, this group of students has attacked minority and marginalized communities at Emory, creating an environment in which many students no longer feel safe and welcome.
I’m going to save my profanity for a later rhetorical excess. I’ll just … seriously? Someone puts up the name of a politician you don’t like and you’re being “attacked”?
However, we firmly believe that this has far exceeded what can reasonably be considered an expression of political support. Donald Trump is no longer a joke. Supporting him, repeating his catchphrases, and arguing for his plausibility as the leader of the free world has become a threat to our democracy and an implicit attack on the Muslim, Latin, Black and other communities at Emory and across the country. This is not political expression; this is hate speech.
There you have it, all pink and naked. Supporting a politician I oppose is hate speech.
Look, I don’t like Donald Trump. I think he is stoking some awful fires in this country, as attested by the enthusiasm among white supremacists. But for God’s sake, can we back down from the hysteria? Trump’s a crass, idiotic con man who thinks he can win the Presidency by stimulating resentment and fear (some of which, on trade and terrorism, the Democrats are more than happy to stimulate as well). He’s not Hitler. He’s barely a low-rent George Wallace.
Oh, it gets worse:
Libertarian writer Jeffrey Tucker was present on campus earlier this week, when the messages first appeared. He told me that I was wrong to mock legitimate criticisms of the “Trump 2016″ scrawlings, which he characterized as vandalism of private property. The campus is a fairly apolitical place and the Trump messages were widely perceived as racial intimidation against the campus’s significant minority population—not mere political advocacy—according to Tucker.
“It was like cross burning,” Tucker told me. “It was on private property. It was extremely damaging and the students and faculty were totally embarrassed…it was absolutely intended to intimidate everyone and it worked.”
Cross-burning? Seriously? For anyone to compare this to cross-burning is insane. I’ve had a cross burned on the lawn of my synagogue. It was terrifying. It is a recognized act of terrorism. I don’t care if someone had written “David Duke for President” all over my synagogue. That’s not even comparable.
Conor in a you-really-should-read-the-whole-thing:
Can you imagine how campus progressives would have reacted if a university president threatened to have someone punished or charged with trespassing for chalking “Obama 2012” or “Bernie 2016” on campus sidewalks? But these students see no need for viewpoint-neutral standards about politicking in presidential elections.
Conor points out that cracking down on political messaging will hurt liberals and minorities way more than it hurts conservatives. Donald Trump doesn’t need sidewalk chalk to get his message out. He also points out that this … again … plays rights into Trump’s hands, showing off the very ivory tower elitism that he rails against.
Right now, I’m reading Unlearning Liberty, a great book by Greg Lukianoff about the culture of stifling dissent, debate and free thought on college campuses. This tendency and willingness of students and administrators to treat speech as dangerous has consequences. Part of it is a campus blowing up over graffiti. And part of it is this, from Conor:
Earlier this week, I noted that a black student at UC Davis suffered a hate crime near campus. Three men were later arrested for the assault. Previously, I’ve highlighted the horrifying affects of NYPD spying on innocent Muslim students and the UC Berkeley riot police that turned batons on students. There is sometimes good reason for college students to be concerned about their physical safety on campus, and there are incidents of racism that do not threaten physical safety but are nevertheless abhorrent and understandably upsetting. When students react like this to the mere appearance of the name of a leading candidate in the middle of a presidential-election year, treating the most commonplace political advocacy as if it makes them unsafe, they create perverse incentives for invoking victimhood and deflate the currency of claimed trauma and offense.
When you claim drunken consensual sex is rape, people stop paying attention to sexual violence. When you claim teaching European history is a “microaggression”, people stop paying attention to bias. And when you claim a few chalk scrawls are an “attack”, people stop paying attention to racism.
When I was a kid, my rabbi warned us about screaming “anti-Semitism” at every turn. He said we should bite down and deal with small instances of it so that people would pay attention when we complained about really bad anti-semitism (e.g., some assholes burning a God-damned cross on our lawn). The culture of coddling, hyper-sensitivity and hysteria is destroying not just our ability to deal with real problems in our society, but our ability to even recognize them.
Some students are saying this was blown out of proportion by the media. I don’t think protests and an open letter from the President are tiny things. Nor is it like this is happening in a vacuum. We are seeing this kind of blowups happen on a weekly basis.
Update: At least one student at Emory gets it.