This article was written in response to Maeve Millen’s Papyrus article, “White Males, Listen Up” .
By Jason Bab ’17
The article I recently read in the Papyrus entitled “White Males, Listen Up” is the quintessential example of the attitude and behavior which led to the election of Donald Trump. It was not because Conservatives are racist; it is because you refuse to stop calling us racist or its more subtle twin: “privileged.” The article does one thing only: it inspires anger in many of the “privileged white males” reading it, the same anger that the Democratic Party created throughout this election and which carried Trump past 270 on November 8th. “White Males, Listen Up” exposes a continued lack of understanding as to where the Democratic Party went wrong this past year. Or maybe it is that the misguided self-righteousness the article’s author demonstrates has made some extreme Liberals so out of touch with the real world, so much the center of their own universe, that they have persuaded themselves that their opinion should stand unchallenged as if it were gospel.
Well, it shouldn’t.
While it has become a common misconception that insults, racially based assumptions, and derogatory suggestions are acceptable as long as directed at those dastardly privileged white males, they aren’t. However, I will move past the thoughtless, divisive insults which punctuate “White Males, Listen Up” and address the point the article attempts to make. I have every right to challenge anyone’s opinion, and I believe that if I disagree with someone’s opinion, and the issue is important, it is my responsibility to do so. We do not live in a vacuum. Someday soon every one of us will leave this school and pursue our interests and politics in real world settings. The real world will come as a shock to those who believe that the luxury of having an opinion go unchallenged simply by virtue of it being an opinion exists outside the walls of Liberal Academia. “Safe spaces” where prefacing a sentence with “I feel” transforms it into an incontestable statement of truth only exist at Taft and similar institutions, and they shouldn’t even exist here. It is our school’s responsibility to challenge people’s opinions, not in an attempt to belittle their experiences but to encourage them to learn how to defend their beliefs.
Minority students at this school have valid, powerful points to make, and I have yet to hear a “privileged white male” Taftie say they don’t. However, minority students also have a responsibility to themselves and to their audience to defend their beliefs with reason, facts, and personal experiences, just like every other Taftie. Every opinion is up for scrutiny, no matter whose it is. Having your points challenged can and should be seen as an opportunity to explore the reasons behind them. The listening and learning “White Males, Listen Up” asks for goes two ways. So, yes, white males have every right to go to UCT meetings and present contrary views. We have every right to voice our opinions even if they oppose the opinions of others. I challenge every Taft student to develop the ability to defend his or her beliefs with reason. Anything worth being passionate about is worth creating an argument to support. Political progress and discussion exists only when both sides’ voices are heard, challenged, and ideally reconciled.
Lets talk about the claim that some students do not feel safe at Taft. This is an incredibly powerful indictment of the school, which aims to create an environment where students can learn and mature in an inclusive community. This claim is very difficult for many students to comprehend given the safety nets, quality of community, and support systems the school offers. The claim may be valid, but any student has the right to challenge the allegation that Taft is unsafe. It is the responsibility of those students who would condemn this school to substantiate their accusation with facts and evidence so that students who do not share their experience can understand their point of view. I can say with confidence that there is not a student at this school, white, male, privileged, or otherwise, who would not make every effort to enable fellow students to feel safe if presented with a specific, factually-based issue to resolve. “White Males, Listen Up” challenges white males to question why we would accept only our own beliefs as facts. Well, a belief is just that. It is our responsibility to explain and support our beliefs, and if presented with contrary facts or a solid argument to adjust our beliefs accordingly. However, “White Males, Listen Up” doesn’t truly ask white males to keep an open mind to new information but instead to take the beliefs of minority students as fact, which is simply unfair. Furthermore, white males I have heard speak at UCT meetings seem to ask only for actual facts to back up expressed feelings, a perfectly reasonable request which could very possibly alter their beliefs. Finally, I would encourage my more Liberal fellow students to refrain from belittling and making derogatory assumptions about their fellow Tafties or Americans based on the color of their skin— If not to save yourselves from the incredible hypocrisy of the approach, simply out of the understanding that you are dividing this country, filling it with the very anger you seek to prevent, and alienating what this election demonstrated to be the most powerful voice in America.