The following article clarifies and elaborates on certain points I made in an article I recently wrote and responds to some of the criticism it has received.
First of all, I’d like to clarify that nowhere in my article do I make the broad claim that all conservatives are racist, misogynistic, or ignorant. I am not evaluating what the spectrum of conservative nuance looks like — that is an article for another day. My exact quotes, if taken in context, designate certain aspects of conservative belief as being harmful and make the claim that conservatism upholds existing power structures which benefit rich, white, heterosexual, men. When I use the following words: “racist, misogynistic, and often ignorant views,” I am referring to people who do not want to "pay for birth control under the Affordable Care Act or … share a bathroom with a transgender individual or who [believe that] their religion is not represented by corporate America." Certainly, these issues warrant more nuanced conversations but these views are inherently harmful to women, trans women and men, and anyone who is not Christian. I would like to clarify that my last paragraph's negative qualifiers refer more to the President and people of similar beliefs than to all conservatives in general. I certainly don’t shy away from labelling the alt-right and our President as racist and misogynistic but even that is not the point. I am more concerned with certain conservative ideologies, which are empirically harmful to certain demographics of people. My point is that conservatives cannot claim oppression from people who are harmed by their views.
The way I use the words “sexist” and “racist” is as a way to denote qualifiers of people who knowingly or unknowingly hold views that could cause harm to a certain designated group of people. Motivation is not something I believe needs to be factored in. Take this example: if I really believe in a study about a tooth fairy who grants people's deepest, darkest wishes, then can I go around knocking people's teeth out at will as long as I believe that I’m doing these people a favor and my heart's in the right place? And can I blame you for wanting to protect your teeth from me? Racism and homophobia are both quite like this example — when someone has views that harm other people, it is not necessary to go looking for a positive motivation. If someone is racist towards me, I will react accordingly by taking offense whether the racism comes from disproven studies or not. And I cannot and should not be accused of reverse-oppression.
The view that Ryan Anderson ’04 espouses, as Isaac Martinez ’19 points out in his response column, is based on outdated studies but is still homophobic in its intent if not its delivery. To validate his views (no matter his motivation) without allowing affected individuals (queer people and allies) to label him as homophobic is extremely unfair. And labelling this designation of Anderson's homophobia as an oppression is deplorable.
In my article, I do not mean to suggest that conversations going forward about controversial topics should literally involve name-calling. But I am strongly for the rights of individuals to speak out against and be offended by views that might be politically or personally harmful to them or to the people they care about. And in turn these individuals — whether they be part of a majority or a minority — cannot be labelled as the oppressor.
Considering that conservatism is an amalgam of ideologies that canonically support existing power systems — these ideologies are present in our course material and are even present in day-to-day interactions we have with other people living within the system. For example, the existing patriarchal system means that sometimes a female professor is not given the same authority as a male professor on campus. It is a system that we live with. For someone to suggest, on campus, that a woman's role is in the home is not to espouse to a radically new and easily persecuted thought; rather, the effects of this way of thinking can be seen loosely in my example of the female professor. Therefore, when I (along with a good portion of campus) passionately oppose the view of the domestic woman as an ideal, I am by no means creating a system of oppression. I am not suggesting that all conservatives believe in this ideal or support the patriarchal system, but I am making the claim that conservatives who share similar views that bolster an existing hegemony cannot claim oppression merely because their ideas are designated as sexist or racist by the very people who are hurt by them. If conservatives clamor for freedom of speech then they must also support our right to freedom of speech. If they have the freedom to express certain sexist and racist ideas, we should have the freedom to call those ideas sexist and racist. Here, the words sexist and racist are not expletives meant to shut people down who disagree with me but rather to designate the type of harm being committed by certain ideas.
Certainly, even as the minority, conservatives are given a voice on our campus through both existing systems and through evident freedom of speech and press. If a conservative feels reluctant to voice a racist or sexist opinion, it’s not a suppression so much as the shame of being found out by your peers as someone who does not care about those who are indeed oppressed in our society. This phenomenon is being framed by certain people as an oppression of the conservative minority by the majority — but actually this is just the backlash by historically oppressed minorities (and allies) against the existing power structures that still create an unfair and unbalanced society. That being said, I firmly believe that everyone should, by all means, voice their opinion — in fact, please, please do! Balanced discussions are the backbone of intellectual progress. But please be open to conversation and do not claim that you are oppressed if your ideas are labelled as sexist, racist, or homophobic in that they have been historically and academically proven harmful to certain demographics.
Bhaamati Borkhetaria is a sophomore from Jersey City, N.J. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.