Yale wasn’t the only university that sparked a controversy in recent weeks surrounding Halloween costumes. On the eve of Halloween, The Daily Tarheel, UNC Chapel-Hill’s primary journalistic outlet, published an online opinion column which suggested not only that dressing up in another culture’s garb is racist, but also that it contributes to a culture of hatred and anti-black violence.
In doing so, the author ignored all that real-world oppression that fails to fit her sloppy narrative, but it nonetheless certainly takes courage to fight the dastardly scourge that is Halloween costuming.
More astonishing than the author’s presumptuous hysteria, however, was her blatant racism: she appropriated the meaningless phrase “white privilege” as a way of avoiding honest dialogue and legitimate disagreement.
“First, let me break things down,” she writes in her pointed address, “White people, you do not get to decide what is or isn’t racist …. As a member of the dominant culture whose existence depends on the exploitation and oppression of people of color, you do not get to determine what is or is not appropriation because frankly, you have no valid opinion in the matter.”
Apparently, my very existence as a twenty-year-old white male from the suburbs thrives inextricably on hatred and violence. Indeed, the author’s message is simple: Bow down to my rhetoric and beliefs, lest you wish to be branded a racist by me and my very capable leftist goons in the academic world and in the broader culture.
This, you see, is the ultimate irony of the supposed campaign for racial equality, embodied by the campus Left and entities like the Black Lives Matter movement. Activists claim to actually care about healing tensions and harmonizing race relations, and they call for sincere dialogue on the matter in the hopes of bringing attention to the need for social and cultural evolution. However, they consistently suggest that it is illegitimate for white people to address the issue itself because of a vaguely defined “white privilege” that renders all interracial conversation moot.
In other words, by thwarting any attempt on the part of white people to get involved in the issue either politically or culturally, they destroy any possibility of constructive dialogue. By attaching the label of “white privilege” to those who have no control over the color of their own skin, they resort to the very racism they claim to ardently abhor.
The question regarding those who happen to be white and who also happen to care about issues facing the black community is simply put: how are we supposed to be effective advocates for the improvement of race relations if certain individuals on the Left refuse to allow us to speak? How can Black Lives Matter, which convicts an entire culture and whole community of racism for individual acts of racism, justify its search for tolerance and egalitarianism?
If the campus Left wishes to effectively address these issues, then, for God’s sake, they need to quit silencing serious and smart dissent by inventing a divisive phrase that pretends as if it is impossible for whites to think clearly about political and social matters.
In the end, the sort of anti-speech attitude assumed by various campus activists needs to perish. It needs to be exposed not only for its unhelpful outlook, but also for its own virulent and unabashed sense of discrimination. The progressives who champion the notion of “white privilege” and suggest that whites in America have never undergone oppression (or can never even understand what it would be like to have been oppressed) are the very people who actively stymie the progress for which the great majority of us long.
There is nothing “liberal” about shutting people up because they are white. To do so is to engage in totalitarian tactics that have no place in a free society.