“Tim Wolfe must acknowledge his white male privilege, recognize that systems of oppression exist, and provide a verbal commitment to fulfilling Concerned Student 1-9-5-0 demands.”
That topped the list of demands levied by University of Missouri students against what they claimed was a lack of willingness on the university’s part to address racial concerns.
Jonathan Butler, a University of Missouri grad student who did a 7 day hunger strike is greeted by the crowd of students on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Students celebrate the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
We’ll get to that in a moment.
I’m paraphrasing, but our Founders fundamentally believed that the government they created would only work provided our society is filled with decent people and common sense.
What if we’ve reached a point where this exceptionally unique and special framework can’t be upheld? (Not in the 21st century, millennial-mandated world we live in, anyway.)
Don’t get me wrong. I want to kiss the ground I walk on when I think about the things we enjoy in this country, and I know there’s plenty of places that face far greater threats to freedom.
Nonetheless, every problem starts somewhere. And when I see students and faculty at universities across the country openly embracing the suppression of the First Amendment, unashamedly calling for racial segregation and wildly screaming to silence opposing thought, I shiver. But it’s a means to an end, right? Machiavelli would be proud.
Before we get started, let’s understand one fundamental premise:
To enjoy rights requires us to consider the rights of others. That is, a right does not give YOU carte blanche to squelch the rights of others. (Note, however, that “feeling offended” doesn’t necessarily mean your rights have been squelched, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)
Really, stop and think about the insanity of that. If I get to decide that MY right cancels out YOUR right (while society cheers gleefully on), then we’re no longer talking about inherent, God-given rights. We’re now talking about privileges bestowed upon SOME by virtue of man-made, determining (and often hypocritical) factors.
So what exactly do I mean when I say our modern, 21st century society doesn’t foster our Constitutional rights?
I mean, take you pick of past eras (or even present ones, considering the heinous world of Islamic State), and 21st century United States looks pretty good.
But I’m telling you it’s absolutely not. So let’s break this down.
We Want What We Want, NOW
I tried out something pretty cool this week. Ever heard of Prime Now? It promises delivery of select Amazon items in an hour or a little more.
Talk about fostering a culture of instant gratification.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But, as I opened my door to pick up my near-instant delivery, it got me thinking: we (us millennials, largely) are used to getting what we want like, yesterday. Or else.
Now apply that to the university protests and demands (which have now spread to colleges nationwide). We millennials are used to getting our way. And not only that, we’re used to having it handed over without question. And like petulant children, fits are thrown (hungry strikes by the African American son of a millionaire, distraught over "white privilege," for example) until heads roll. And roll, they have, from Missouri to California and beyond.
It’s reminiscent of the forced confessions extracted out of political prisoners in Iran. “You WILL admit your white privilege.” (Regardless of whether or not there’s basis for it.)
We’ve Blurred the Lines Between Valid Protests and Mindless Vengeance
We NEED people to stand up for what’s right. And sometimes, protests are a good thing. But today, this generation has been taught to believe (ironically by the same academia that they’re now eating alive) that in order to affect change, people must pay, whether they’re guilty or not. (See: forced confessions, above.) Martin Luther King Jr.’s constructiveness is gone, and vengeance is in its place.
Even worse, this phenomena sweeping the nation is based on wobbly allegations at best and even outright lies in some cases (see: faux KKK invasion), and yet no one takes the time to double check, partly because it feeds into a narrative, and partly because there really are—as I noted in a recent article—deep-seated problems in the African American community that instills a sense of frustration and hopelessness that can be easily redirected at something that doesn’t encompass the WHOLE problem.
We Think We Have A Freedom From Feeling Offended
Amidst three claims of racism at the University of Missouri (two episodes of purported racial slurs and one swastika made out of excrement), one involved an OFF-campus incident:
“In September, Peyton Head, a senior and the president of Missouri Students Association, said he was called racial slurs as he walked near campus.”
Assuming that it’s true, that’s awful. And dead wrong.
But unless the person shouting the slurs was openly threatening harm to this person, it’s just an insult. (And it’s also an insult for which the University of Missouri holds zero responsibility.)
Yes, you heard me right. It’s just an insult. And as wrong as they are, we all have to deal with it every day in some form.
I used to walk to work every day in one of of Mexico’s largest cities, and without fail I’d hear at LEAST a dozen cat-calling losers hurling disgusting sexual innuendo my way. It was awful, and I hated every moment of it. And at least once I spun around and told the truck full of guys to go to hell (among other words).
But I also realized that the world is full of really awful people. And sadly, no amount of indignation on my part was ever going to change that entirely.
Does that mean we don’t work to change hearts and minds? No.
But my point is simple: being or feeling insulted doesn’t give us the right to do whatever we want. And in the case of these university protests, it doesn’t give students the right to disrupt classes, behave irresponsibly and rudely, and demand that individuals who may or may not hold any responsibility TAKE responsibility. That’s anarchy, not constructive action.
We're Totally Ok With Double Standards
Imagine for a moment if white protestors called for a “white safe space,” and armed themselves with tasers and pepper spray to keep the unwanted minorities out. That happened—just reverse the races. And in our 21st century world, that’s somehow acceptable.
We’re Way Too Afraid to Stand Up for Common Sense
How amazing would it have been had these now-resigned leaders stood up for common sense, and facilitated meetings with the protestors?
Instead, they were forced to sacrifice themselves on the altar of societal pressure to avoid further harm coming to their university.
Don’t get me wrong. Had University of Missouri officials (or officials from any of these other campuses) overlooked TRUE racism and bigotry, and still did nothing, by all means—pound sand. But we didn’t even get to reach such a conclusion. Mob rule took over way too fast.
Here’s the long and short of it: Our (note: all people of all races) Constitutional rights can’t survive in a world where my rights can trample the rights of others. They can’t survive where young people refuse to act like adults. They can’t survive where there’s an expectation that nothing should EVER offend us. They can’t survive in a culture that has found an effective tool in reopening the wounds of racism as a means to an end. They can’t fully exist in a culture that doesn’t shun double standards. And most importantly, our Constitutional rights can’t fully exist in a world without common sense.
And if we’ve got a prayer of preserving our vital freedoms, it’s about so much more than getting people to cognitively understand the Constitution. It’s about changing hearts—something our 21st century ways are well on their way to destroying.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. ET). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree
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