By Tina Shaygan, February 14 2017 —
It’s only been a few weeks since United States President Donald Trump’s inauguration, but with all the contentious debates and the ugly rhetoric, issues we thought existed only in history textbooks are back in everyday conversations.
As post-secondary students in one of the most developed countries in the world, we are one of the most privileged groups in society. We have no excuse for our own ignorance. While free speech is important, there is no obligation to tolerate repulsive acts of hate on our campus.
Recent political arguments aren’t a Hobbes versus Machiavelli discussion. This isn’t about how to best raise taxes or whether a free market approach is better than government intervention in the economy. Our debates are now about whether people should be able to leave Syria’s war zones or whether the Roe v. Wade ruling should be overturned to re-criminalize abortion.
These decisions have pressing consequences for the most vulnerable groups in society. But by tiptoeing around the real issues, we only provide room for dangerous ideologies to grow.
Free speech and debate are important. But science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov summed it up best: “anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.”
Since the nomination days of the 2016 American election, people have asked where all these Trump supporters came from. Most studies agree that a large number — though not all — of Trump’s supporters are those who felt “left behind by capitalism.” In other words, blue-collar workers without post-secondary degrees who felt they took the hardest hit from the 2008 financial crisis.
But these aren’t the people on our campus. By the sole virtue of being able to attend post-secondary and live in a metropolitan city, our ignorance is fundamentally different.
Those on our campus who plaster a Facebook event page with photos of Nazis or talk about the dangers of ‘Islamification’ choose hate and ignorance despite knowing — or having the opportunity to know — better.
The University of Calgary Wildrose on Campus club recently endorsed Jason Kenney for leadership of a potential provincial united right-wing party. Kenney has been publicly accused of racism and homophobia, was responsible for the niqab ban while he was a Member of Parliament and made cuts to social services for refugees. When faced with criticism regarding these cuts, he told the CBC, “I wonder why these doctors aren’t raising the same questions about [the medical benefits] taxpaying Canadians receive.”
A blind endorsement of Kenney — and by extension, these ideas — from a group of post-secondary students reeks of ignorance. There is no validity in arguments against LGBTQ rights, helping refugees or banning religions. As university students endorsing Kenney, they should critically challenge him on these ideas.
On Feb. 13, a dozen posters purporting Holocaust denial were seen around campus. And last semester, anti-Muslim posters were found around the U of C just weeks after anti-Sikh posters were found at the University of Alberta campus. There is absolutely nothing of value in white supremacist ideas. We shouldn’t give them any legitimacy as something worthy of discussion.
We’re nowhere near done with social progress. We need to debate in order to include transgender issues, indigenous issues and people of colour in feminism. We need to work to unravel the embedded racism of our institutions. We need to demand our governments represent indigenous communities better. But we do not need to debate whether racism, sexism or homophobia exist in the first place — they do.
Next time an alt-right fascist starts an argument with you on women’s rights, LGBTQ rights or any human rights for that matter, know that you have no obligation to respect their ideas. People’s lives and human rights aren’t feelings to be discussed and mutually agreed upon. They are rights everyone is entitled to by the virtue of being alive.
These debates should be over — fascism has no legitimate grounds, reverse racism doesn’t exist and women’s rights are human rights.
While healthy discussion of legitimate ideas is important for progress, these recent ‘debates’ should be called what they are — hate. As university students, we have no excuse for ignorance. We must know better and demand better from our peers. Don’t make room on our campuses for hate to find legitimacy.