BERNSTEIN: Unpopularity is not oppression
Conservatism is not oppressed, and racial discrimination is far worse than white ethnic discrimination
Recently, Editor-in-Chief of The Virginia Advocate Rob Mogni responded to my piece on what constitutes white privilege, which itself was a response to a piece by Princeton student Tal Fortgang. In his piece, Mogni makes several uninformed claims — the most ludicrous being that conservatism is oppressed — all the while belittling racial discrimination.
Mogni writes the “most oppressed people on a college campus today” are, in fact, conservatives, and the evidence of this is abundant: The Cavalier Daily refuses to publish conservative op-eds; “left-wing student newspaper[s]” dominate school media; and, if you are a conservative, “Hollywood, the media, and academia are wholly against you.” Never mind The Cavalier Daily’s publication of pieces that advocate ending women’s studies, renewing literacy tests, or limiting abortion — clearly, this newspaper consistently refuses to publish non-liberal opinions. Though The Cavalier Daily Managing Board tends to write liberal editorials, I know firsthand from my experience both as a columnist and an associate editor that the paper welcomes diverse opinions, should they be submitted. (The Cavalier Daily also, which Mogni fails to specify, is independent from the University, as it has not received any money from the University since the 1970s.) A key difference between The Virginia Advocate and The Cavalier Daily is that The Virginia Advocate’s mission is to espouse conservatism, whereas The Cavalier Daily is first and foremost a source of objective news that also has editorial content. It is misleading to peg The Cavalier Daily as The Virginia Advocate’s liberal opposition.
It is probably true that conservatism is not popular on most college campuses, as students tend to be more liberal. A 2011 survey showed 27.6 percent of college freshmen identified as liberal, compared to 20.7 as conservative (the rest were down the middle), but answers on individual political issues suggest students are becoming increasingly liberal regardless of how they may identify. Unpopularity, however, does not equate to oppression. From my own observations, conservatives on Grounds are quite vocal and their organizations are respected. If conservatism were truly oppressed, The Virginia Advocate, The Burke Society and College Republicans would not be as prominent as they are or taken as seriously by the student body, much less receive school funding which is appropriated by the Student Council.
Additionally, academia is not “wholly against” conservatism, as Mogni claims; academia cannot be generalized as left-leaning when it is partitioned into so many different subcategories, all of which can contain liberals and conservatives. Professor Elzinga incorporated Ayn Rand into his lecture during Intro to Microeconomics last fall, and his class is considered one of the staples of our University. Other prominent, conservative-leaning professors include Steven Rhoads and James W. Ceaser in the Politics Department. In other departments professors may espouse liberal views, but the point is that broad generalizations about all of academia are unfounded. Mogni also ignores the fact that some areas of academia do not lend themselves to politics at all, negating any claim about the politics of all of academia.
While bemoaning discrimination against conservatism, Mogni also belittles racial discrimination. Mogni argues ethnic discrimination against whites of different backgrounds is analogous to discrimination against blacks; he asserts that “the de facto residential segregation of blacks was much the same with Italians in the greater Boston area” not too long ago. Let me be clear: discrimination against Jews, Italians, Irish, Slavs and others in America existed — and in some cases, exists — and should not be ignored. But this does not mean their discrimination compares to the type African Americans faced and still face.
For one, the ethnic groups Mogni refers to have an impressive history of education in their respective native lands. Though some forms of segregation — often self-segregation, not legally mandated as it was for blacks — certainly existed, the groups Mogni mentions often already had the tools to overcome the discrimination they faced. But as I outlined in my previous column, with the institution of slavery, followed by segregation, African-Americans lacked those tools and still face significant discrimination in our society, often compounded with poor schooling.
The circumstances Mogni describes, like the ones Fortgang describes, are sympathetic. In Boston, his family’s homes were demolished; for Fortgang, much of his family was housed in concentration camps. But like Fortgang’s Holocaust-influenced family history, Mogni’s stories do not reflect present discrimination, and his anecdotes do not suggest conservative politics are oppressed. The recent examples he cites — Romney supporters getting spat on, other apparently negative interactions with The Cavalier Daily — are too specific to his own experiences to indicate a broader current of oppression against conservatism. The alleged bias against conservatism in this country cannot compare to the racial bias Mogni derides, which is in fact far more oppressive and widespread — so much so that former Florida Governor Charlie Crist left the GOP because of what he perceived to be racism against the current president.
There is a difference between oppressing a political view and disagreeing with it — a nuance true racism does not include. From his description, Mogni’s experiences in classes do not suggest activity beyond discussion and disagreement, which political views merit. Racial oppression, however, by definition cannot be anything but bigotry. Mogni’s political beliefs are not at even the remotest risk of oppression; the suggestion that they are belittles the significance of the other existing oppression in our country, like the racism that continues to limit equal opportunity.
Dani Bernstein is a Senior Associate Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.