The Privileged Do Not Get to Define Oppression

April 19, 2019

The day after Trump’s election, I remember going on Facebook and finding posts by dozens of people who were “coming out” as Republicans and Trump supporters. While these conservatives were co-opting the language of the LGBTQ+ experience, thousands of queer people woke up to find the section of  the White House’s website detailing their rights had been taken down overnight. This narrative of conservatives being “shamed” or even “oppressed” because of their political beliefs is dangerous and needs to stop.

 

First things first: if you are embarrassed of who you voted for, the party you align with or you are afraid that comments you have made will cause people to label you as a white supremacist, maybe you should think twice about your political beliefs.  

 

With that being said, I believe in free speech. I believe everyone has the right to feel safe to express their opinion. That being said, Republicans––and conservatives in general––appropriating this language and narrative of discrimination and exclusion is not only incorrect but a slap in the face to people that actually do experience discrimination every day. By claiming oppression you are actively contributing to the oppression you claim to criticize.

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER YOO/FLICKR                    

 

At Drew, I have experienced homophobia, xenophobia and other kinds of discrimination. Sometimes, this hate speech came directly from right-wing students that claim they are discriminated against for what party they vote for. If you believe in free speech, if you are truly against oppression, maybe try not calling people “wetbacks” to their face…twice.

 

The worst part is that this behavior is allowed, sometimes even encouraged––both on campus and in the world in general. When you allow people to label themselves as oppressed because of their conservative views you create a permissive environment for violent “free speech.” When minorities and oppressed communities call out the people that have offended them by denouncing their homophobic, racist or otherwise discriminatory speech and behavior, suddenly minorities become the attackers and the others the victims. People have even gone as far as labeling ‘racist’ and similar words as ‘slurs’ when in reality it is just a description of hateful behavior. This is but another example of victim-blaming.

 

When you stay silent as privileged individuals claim they are being discriminated against, you too are contributing to the systemic and structural oppression of minorities.

 

It is important to understand the difference between your political beliefs being underrepresented at Drew (or in higher education in general) and the actual definition of oppression. Your political alignment is a choice, and so is your decision to use it as an excuse for discrimination.

Drew will not be a fully welcoming environment until we collectively stop allowing this. I am not saying, by any means, that no Republicans or conservatives have received backlash or hateful comments because of their political orientation. Again, I believe in free speech, but above all I think it is irresponsible to throw around the word “oppression” with such disregard to the experiences of minority students on campus and in the world.

 

Kassel is a junior with a double major in Women’s and Gender Studies and International Relations and a minor in Latin American Studies.

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