Vol 11, Issue 5
Last Tuesday evening as I sat on the tram mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, I was startled to see the headline: "Dear White People of MLS" appear in my Facebook news feed. I looked down at my pasty white skin and asked myself have the "white" people of MLS as a collective done something wrong? Who are the “white” people of MLS? And why is there a need to address them as a sub-sub group of the MLS? With my summer glow fading I opened the article to figure out what I (and my white counterparts) had done wrong.
I navigated my way through this article as it recounted recent political events and highlighted some examples of injustices within our own community. Overwhelmingly, however, I sensed the right to freedom of ideas at an educational institution was all but dead. It is this freedom that the author relies upon to write this piece, it is this freedom that he suggests we assist our persecuted neighbours in gaining, but it is this exact freedom that if exercised a) by a white person and b) in a way that veers anywhere to the right of left, the freedom should not be had (as I understood his article to suggest).
People who are white are more than that, just as those who are any other colour or shade, we are all defined by more than our skin. The whiteness of my skin has not always and does not necessarily endow upon members of my family privilege. Many students at this law school who have been categorised as “white” have parents or grandparents who have survived persecution at the hands of Dictators for none other than their Judeo-Christian faith or their differing political ideologies and belief in democracy. That is to say, whiteness does not in itself grant nor does it deny the rights and freedoms protected in this country.
It is in baselessly categorising a group by nothing other than the colour of their skin and vilifying the members of that group that the author appears to further do a disservice to addressing the injustices he seeks to highlight.
As someone who likes to educate and keep myself abreast of political issues, I recognise that there is great unrest at the moment with the rise of so-called populism. I also recognise that being at a leading law school I am surrounded by educated individuals who not only have the right to their own views, but also have the resources with which to educate themselves and form those views.
Whilst I do not profess to know the author’s own personal political views, nor do I seek to challenge them, because I know he formed these himself and has that right – a right I respect. However, I do seek to highlight the inequality that the author seeks to perpetuate by claiming certain views are unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
Anyway, it is my duty to challenge him – he asked that when we see bigoted views around us to call them out – so that is what I am doing: calling out his narrow-minded assertion that some people are allowed to exercise their rights and others cannot. Specifically, the most remarkable claim in the piece was that: ' 'Supporting Trump’s policies and being part of the alt-right should be unacceptable positions.' I am sure because the author has some economic sense, and understands that some of Trump’s policies have sound economic grounding and ought to be considered, that the author attempts to protect himself by claiming: 'This is not to say that right-wing economic populism is an immoral political position.'
It is in addressing the white students of MLS and claiming that a particular position is unacceptable the author effectively denies those students their right, while allowing himself to maintain his right and use it to tar them all with the same brush. And while some have interpreted this intolerance as a mere metaphorical call for people to respond to such views, when the article is read as a whole with specific attention to the intended audience (white students), the sentiment that some do not deserve their right to freedom of speech and opinion as much as others is overwhelming.
Now I am no fool and can recognise that some of Trump's policies are undeniably targeted towards particular groups whether they be immigrants, Muslims or women. While I would not have endorsed such policies myself, I understand that one has the right to support them if they wish. And whilst I can voice my disdain and attempt to educate them against supporting such policies, I cannot dictate that their position is unacceptable and that therefore my position must be the one true and correct view.
Virginia Holdenson is a second-year JD student
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