I have noticed that the ongoing discussion about the stickers that have shown up at Bakersfield College has not been focused on an analysis of the message communicated by the two slogans that have offended some. In our current political debate there is a tendency to substitute labels (i.e white nationalist, racist, homophobe, Islamophobe, hate monger, anti-choice, pro-choice, right-wing, left-wing, etc.) for a thoughtful analysis of the issues. So I will take a shot at it. Oops, I need to be more careful of my use of words lest BC professor Andrew Bond, a recent Community Voices contributor, thinks I am encouraging violence.
First, let’s analyze the meaning of “Never Apologize for Being White.” Why should anyone ever apologize for being black, white, Hispanic, native American, etc.? This slogan, as with “Black Lives Matter.” obviously has its roots in the perception of a particular group that they are not being treated equitably. Taken by itself, where is the hatred, racism and xenophobia to which professor Bond refers in his recent Community Voices article? He resorts here to the age-old tactic of “guilt by association,” asking us to condemn this statement by associating it with an anonymous group promoting other slogans which are not innocuous. Professor Bond suggests that the role of the college is to protect students from being “confronted by propaganda that calls into question the legitimacy of their experiences and undermines the means by which the college is helping them succeed.” I thought the purpose of going to college was to get an education that will prepare an individual to succeed in his or her chosen profession, not to shield students from viewpoints considered harmful by the administration. Isn’t the ability to tolerate views in opposition to our own an important prerequisite for success in life? Should not a college encourage students to investigate and thoughtfully consider different viewpoints, even those with which they disagree, rather than labeling them as evil and attempting to squelch any discussion of them?
The second sticker professor Bond is offended by is “Smash Cultural Marxism.” Once again he makes no effort to analyze its message but labels it as “right-wing discourse” and a call to violence. We are all familiar with references to “striking down” court rulings, “shooting down” ideas or concepts, “getting rid of,” “eliminating,” etc. Our courts have defined free speech as allowing all anti-government statements as long as they do not call for violence. Here he equates “Marxism” with “social justice” and “diversity initiatives” thus avoiding the historical definition of Marxism as a system of thought which imposes its views on the citizens of a country denying them freedom of speech, religion and has resulted in the murder of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million humans. Although the memo sent by the BC administration to students and faculty, to which professor Matthew Garrett referred, a previous Community Voices contributor, did not threaten offenders with arrest or punishment, it seems obvious it was intended to discourage and silence voices in disagreement with the “official position.” Is not “Marxist” an appropriate descriptor for an effort by the politically correct to stifle free and open discourse?
The history of our great nation is stained with horrendous injustices such as slavery, the treatment of American Indians and the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” which was the rationale for stealing huge chunks of territory from Mexico, all in contradiction of the American ideal, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” We owe much to leaders like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, who in spite of the great injustices they suffered, resisted the temptation for revenge and were instrumental in establishing a new order in their respective nations. Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years for his opposition to apartheid, refused to embrace reverse racism when he became president of South Africa and welcomed whites into a new era of racial equality
I am thankful that professor Bond and others who hold his views are free to express them without fear of reprisal or punishment. It has caused me to reexamine my own opinions and I am writing not to label him or other like-thinkers with pejorative terms but rather to promote and if possible convince others of the rightness of my opinions. Free speech is founded on the faith that truth will ultimately prevail and therefore does not require the silencing of viewpoints in opposition to our own. And it often requires us to tolerate views that are abhorrent to our own (flag burning,etc.).
Miguel Nidever is a Spanish medical interpreter and former high school teacher who grew up in McFarland. He can be reached at email@example.com.