A recent editorial by Hannah Tardie was meant to encourage viewpoints from political conservatives. But, instead of simply welcoming alternative perspective so that those mourning Hillary Clinton’s loss might begin to understand why Donald Trump won, Tardie, by characterizing conservatives as “gun-loving, border patrolling, abortion hating,” and “death penalty loving,” instead perpetuated memes which prevent a nuanced comprehension of the reasons so many voted for the political right. Starting with epithets undermines productive conservation.
You want free and open discourse at Bates? Then don’t call me a racist when I want to talk about the pandemic of Black-on-Black violence in America’s African-American community or express horror at the college’s practice of targeting hiring of minorities (here I was, thinking we should be color-blind); when I point out uncomfortable truths about Islam, don’t inaccurately label me an Islamophobe and pretend that these facts don’t exist; don’t call me a White Nationalist when I argue that undocumented immigrants should be deported so that we honor the sacrifice and respect for our laws demonstrated by those valued immigrants from all over the globe who enter the country legally; when I express concern that our national borders should be more secure in response to war, drugs, gun-running, and human trafficking, don’t call me a paranoid xenophobe; don’t dismiss me as uncompassionate when I articulate misgivings about Obamacare; don’t call me a tyrant when I give data that suggest that having more prisons makes life safer for those who live within the boundaries of the law; don’t tell me to “examine my place of ‘white privilege’” when I was born into, and remain in, the working class. Don’t.
Instead of responding emotionally, engage with the argument, debate the points. I’ve been listening to your ideas for years, allowing them to challenge my own and force me to reevaluate my positions. Perhaps it is time that you stopped seeing conservatives as enemies and started trying to understand us, time for you to step outside your insulated comfort zone and start a conservation with us from a place of mutual respect.
This welcome transformation in the state of political discourse could start at the very top. Recently, Clayton Spencer wrote to the Bates Community to update us on how Bates is responding to the recent presidential election. In her letter, she discusses the importance of freedom of speech. I couldn’t agree with her more. But, is she being honest? One cannot convincingly advocate for freedom of expression while simultaneously labelling certain arguments as “hate speech.” Instead quashing conversation before it has even begun with such unintellectual (and, frankly, un-American) ideas as “hate speech,” Spencer and her administration should be actively seeking out ways to make Bates politically varied, so that the minds, and not just the skins, that comprise our community are diverse, too.
It is with sincere regret that I cannot sign this letter, out of fear of the loss of my employment. Please forgive me for requiring anonymity.