Civil Discourse Isn’t a Lecture

As usual, the UNC College Republicans are hosting an event about free speech. Can I just say that if I was politically ignorant and didn’t know what traditional Republican beliefs were and I was solely basing it off the College Republicans, I would think Republicans only care about being anti-political correct and protecting hate speech. Anyway, I digress.

So Dr. Mike Adams is coming to campus next week. He’s a professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He studies sociology and criminology and is a self-proclaimed liberal….interesting.

In the past, Adams has posted things on his Facebook page such as “the only thing more disgusting than a jihadist Muslim is a pro-choice Muslim” and “let’s make it illegal for doctors to mutilate the genitals of the mentally ill. That would resolve the whole hb2 thing”.

Last week, UNC College Republicans wrote a letter to the editor of the The Daily Tar Heel basically saying Adams is a cool guy and the UNC community should come hear him speak.

Here’s my issue. I don’t care that this guy is coming to campus. Come, speak, whatever. But the problem is he is solely speaking, not engaging. He is going to come here, spit his rhetoric about why being politically correct is a joke, probably offend the LGBTQ community, and maybe entertain some questions from the audience about how to deal with being the only republican in their class.

I don’t want to go to that. I don’t want to attend a lecture by someone who is going to shit on my beliefs and then not even going to give me a chance to explain my opinion? That isn’t discourse, it’s a lecture.

If I wanted to engage in civil discourse, I would grab have an actual conversation with someone who has different viewpoints than me. Hint: this doesn’t necessarily have to be a Republican but for the sake of this article let’s pretend it is. We would grab coffee, talk about ideology, talk about political institutions, and try to figure out how we came to develop what we believe. Talk about the experiences and identities we bring to the table and not invalidate them. Listen to learn, not to respond.

If I go see Dr. Mike Adams, is the coffee scenario the kind of civil discourse I will get to engage in? Probably not. And there is the main problem. Sure, I could go to this lecture and ask a question challenging him, but that is not an environment I personally want to be in. I don’t want to ask a question and instead of him answering it, he tries to invalidate me and my opinion. Just like a Republican probably wouldn’t want to come to an explicitly Democrat speaker event and challenge them and then get embarrassed by a room full of people that have pre-conceived notions about you and your party.

The way I see it, I wouldn’t go to this event to engage in civil discourse. I don’t think being surrounded by people who don’t agree with you is the best way to have a conversation. But I would go to gain a different perspective. To hear different opinions, and then maybe discuss them later one on one with someone I did feel comfortable having this conversation with. I’m all for leaning into discomfort, but that discomfort needs to turn into growth.

I guess my point is, UNC College Republicans, own up to what you are doing. If the tables were turned and UNC Young Democrats hosted this type of event would you come? This isn’t civil discourse, this is a lecture to engage in confirmation bias. To have someone confirm what you already believe is true. If you want to engage in civil discourse, have an actual conversation.

A Call to Educators During Trump’s Administration

Another day, another controversial Trump action.

On Wednesday, Trump announced that he was taking away protections of transgender students from using the bathroom designated for the gender they identify with.

I’m not concerned about Trump, I’m concerned about schools. I’m an activist, of course I’m going to fight this. If a school is being transphobic towards its students, I’ll protest, send letters , call representatives, whatever it takes.

But I can’t be in school with these kids. I can’t keep an ear out in their classrooms and make sure their not being bullied. I can’t be an active bystander and get them out of a threatening situation. I can’t be their teacher and let them know that regardless of how I feel about their identity, I care more about their capability as a student and a human being.  

I can’t do any of that, but educators and students can. Even though these protections are being messed with, schools still have the power and freedom to allow students to chose to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

So, educators, principals, guidance counselors, students, we’re looking at you.

What were you doing for transgender students before this? Barack Obama put the protection of transgender students until Title IX during his time in office, did you help protect that? We all know that just because something is a law doesn’t mean it’s always enforced, especially in the education system.

Brown v. Board was passed in 1954 and schools under the law had to be desegregated, yet schools didn’t really start becoming integrated till the 1960s. Why? Because educators didn’t care that it was the law they felt it was morally right that black and white students didn’t go to school together. Or, if they didn’t feel this way, they were silent and complicit and rarely challenged their schools so they implementation would occur faster.

So, I’m hoping you in 2017, we are not repeating the mistakes of history. We are not letting our personal moral beliefs stand in the way of a child’s education. I hope you are not silent and complicit if you see a transgender student being bullied or discriminated against. We need educators to be self-aware. Who are you protecting, and at what expense are you protecting them?

Even Betsy DeVos, the highly controversial new Secretary of Education, thinks taking away these protections is a bad move. DeVos did not support this decision and wanted to make sure that schools were doing their part to make sure that bullying and discrimination would not be tolerated.

School is a place meant for learning and growth, not hate and terror. Make sure you are doing your part to ensure that school is a safe environment for every student.

Campus Y Co- Presidents Forum Recap

On Wednesday evening, the candidates running for Campus Y Co-Presidents participated in a forum. The candidates were asked questions, both separately and collectively, about their platform, understanding of social justice, and where they want to take the Campus Y.

Asha Patel and Nick McKenzie are both sophomores who have been involved with the Y since their first year. McKenzie currently holds leadership positions in Nourish-UNC, Hope Gardens, and Carolina Empowerment Fund. Asha currently serves as a co-chair for Hunger Lunch, a venture within Nourish-UNC.

“I think it’s important for a leader to be able to connect to every single person that they interact with and other people working with you,” Patel said.

Running against Patel and McKenzie are Alexander Peeples and Courtney Staton. Peeples is a junior and currently serves as the Co-Director of Development on the Campus Y exec board. Staton is a sophomore and is currently a co-chair of Criminal Justice Awareness and Action.

“Social justice is showing up everyday and not continuing the oppression of other people,” Peeples said.

The forum began with each duo given two minutes to introduce themselves. Then they were asked a variety of questions and given either a minute per person to answer or minute as a duo to answer. For the most part, candidates did well within these time limits.

When asked what would they focus on if they could only accomplish two big goals as co-presidents, Patel and McKenzie said their focus would be on outreach and engagement with as many communities on UNC’s campus as possible. They also wanted to focus on getting more people to be involved with issues in Chapel Hill and municipal elections.

“It’s really powerful that we make sure there’s a larger education component of the Y especially in terms of local elections. We know that it’s going to be a huge issue coming up nationally…,” McKenzie said.

Peeples and Staton believe that the Campus Y has a crucial role in terms of campus activism and said their goal is to continue that role and expand it. They want to make sure the Campus Y provides resources to everyone for greater social good and never tries to take over voices.

“The Campus Y is supposed to be the place where activists across issues can come together and realize how they’re all interconnected and we want the Campus Y to continue to serve as that,” Staton said.

While all candidates had similar views on some things like the Y’s commitment to social justice or the transparency needed between the executive board and committees, other issues caused some tension.

During the audience question and answer session, McKenzie was asked about how he referred to people of color as “colored people” during a previous answer. He also was questioned how he planned to balance his personal political beliefs with the Campus Y given that public records indicate that he voted in the Republican primaries. Specifically, an audience member referenced past and recent legislature the Republican Party has passed that has been damaging to a number of social justice causes.

Both McKenzie and Peeples were asked by the audience how they were planning to self-reflect on their privileges as white males. Neither Patel or Staton were asked about their identities and how it would influence their leadership.

Voting for the Campus Y Co-Presidents will take place on Tuesday February 7th from 9 am to 5 pm. Voting is restricted to registered members of the Campus Y only. If you have any questions about whether or not you are a registered member, email CampusY.unc@gmail.com

You can learn more about Asha and Nick’s platform here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_tJ-HA1DNHXQ1lHSkdLOXV4Q0k/view

You can learn more about Alexander and Courtney’s platform here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B322ptORbby1U0VsbzNya3N2V2c/view