MAEVE LAZOR, CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF | DEC 8, 2016
“Stop it,” president-elect Donald Trump on November 13, 2016 in a 60-minute interview, said, calling out those who were committing hate-crimes in his name. Before the interview about the violent acts alt-right activists were committing post-election, Trump claimed he was unaware of the events. He said he was “surprised.”
“I am so saddened to hear that. And I say: stop it. If it, if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: stop it.”
Whether or not Trump’s naivete is believable, it is ironic that a man who ran a campaign based on hate was allegedly shocked by the behavior of those who supported such ideals. Since Election Day, there has been a surge of racist and violent incidents across the country—201 cases in one count by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Minorities, immigrants, and Muslims have received death threats and have been told to “go back to where they came from.”
Several women reported having their hijabs ripped off their heads by extreme Trump supporters. Many supporters have also acted on Trump’s misogynistic values by grabbing women in a violent, sexual manner in public, saying: “the president said it was okay,” in reference to his leaked tape where he infamously said: “grab them by the pussy.”
This kind of hateful sentiment has been present in America’s value system for decades, but Trump’s victory helped unveil these ugly beliefs. So why is everyone acting so surprised? The truth of the matter is Trump won the white, nationalist vote, a vote that many left-wing journalists overlooked, often because they did not want to accept the fact that both the Republican candidate and many of those who supported him, do not embrace pluralism.
It is no secret that Trump defies every aspect of pluralism, especially tolerance. In the celebrated American melting pot—which is looking like a salad bowl now more than ever—embracing those from different cultures and backgrounds is a fundamental idea behind American democracy. But now Trump is sending the message that in order to “make America great again,” we have to build walls and register Muslims; we have to fear those who are not like “us,” and Trump is re-catalyzing the “us” versus “them” mindset America hasn’t seen since before Jim Crow laws were abolished.
In many American high schools and colleges, including Bard, students are taught to fight intolerance and are encouraged to engage in respectful discourse with those who may have differing views. They are taught to call out culprits and to stand up for those who are victimized. Good teachers urge students to challenge their own ideas by learning about the ideas of those who come from different countries or practice different religions. After all, diversity in intellectual thought as well as diversity in the student body arguably makes for the best learning environment.
But since Trump’s election, the qualities that contribute to a pluralistic, academic setting are under attack, including race, religion, gender, nationality. And many are so fed up by the politically correct culture fostered by liberal institutions that they are ready to release all of the racist, sexist sentiments they have restrained– in the name of free speech. They embrace a leader like Trump for his unprecedented use of un-political banter and his denouncement of political correctness, which has historically served as a foundation of higher education.
“I’m so tired of this politically correct crap,” Trump told a cheering audience in South Carolina in September.
There is a time and place for political correctness, one being the presidential election trail, where qualified politicians make their cases for bettering the lives of American citizens. One place it doesn’t belong, perhaps, is late night comedy or reality television, where Trump should have stayed.
Imagine a peer in a classroom setting, asserting that Mexican immigrants are “criminals, drug dealers, and rapists.” Or casually referring to women as “fat pigs, dogs, and disgusting animals.” This individual would be called out immediately for his offensive rhetoric, and maybe shunned by his classmates. Yet somehow America has elected a man who consistently speaks in this manner without apology.
This is because, without a doubt, many ignorant Americans want to abandon multicultural liberalism and the norms of political discourse. White Americans are tired of tip-toeing around minorities, and being told they should bend over backwards trying not to offend them. They are tired of being called racist and now look up to a president who could care less that he was endorsed by the KKK’s official newspaper.
It still perplexes me, however, how students at some the nation’s most elite colleges and universities are culprits of the same offensive rhetoric that Trump elicits every time he opens his mouth. A Penn University that is home to a few dozen Trump voters is one thing. But a Penn University whose students created a blacklist of the minority students they planned to target for hate crimes after Trump’s election should not reflect the values of an Ivy League University, or any academic institution for that matter.
But again, people with such racist outlooks have always been here. It’s just that now they can freely express attitudes of jingoism without fear of judgment after Trump won. Now, their unveiled sentiments are plausible and even acceptable to America.
Politics should not be a spectator sport, yet everyone is cheering from the sidelines. And now that we are subtracting politically correct discourse from the equation, the cheering, on college campuses specifically, is loud, bashful, offensive, and in support of a man who will inevitably strengthen the divide between “us” and “them.”
To respond to this article, or to submit an op-ed, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.