by Claire Del Sorbo, FCRH ‘19
The Fordham Ram, Fordham’s oldest student publication, has prided itself on “providing a forum for the free and open exchange of ideas in service to the community and to act as a student advocate.” In recent months, the Ram has sustained this commitment by repeatedly showcasing ignorant student articles such as “Kaepernick’s Kneeling is the Wrong Response to Racism,” “Snickers, Scares and Stereotypes,” and “Safe Spaces Do Not Create a ‘Safe’ Society.” An article entitled “Check Your Liberal Privilege” is the most recent submission to this category.
“Imagine living in a world in which nobody agrees with you, a world in which you are embarrassed by your fundamental beliefs,” writes Ryan Quinn, FCRH ‘17, the article’s author. “Conservatism has become a dirty word, stripping right-leaning college students of the freedom to speak their minds.” The premise of this article is the supposed discrimination Quinn feels for being a conservative student at Fordham. While it is certainly true that many liberals are stubborn and aggressive, it does not erase the fact that traditional conservatives have elected someone who ran an entire campaign on pure hatred and ignorance and won, nor does it negate that Trump’s racism, xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia was not a deal breaker to them.
Quinn claims that he often masks his political ideology to avoid being labeled a “hateful, close-minded conspiracy theorist.” One wonders how someone could justify holding political views which could easily be mistaken for bigotry. He then compares his experiences to a Muslim woman telling her daughter to not wear her hijab in public for fear of being attacked. What Quinn fails to realize is that the enactment of his views into the mainstream political foreground would further impoverish and marginalize the very people that, for the purposes of this article, he claims to care about. His main concern is being outed as a bigot for his opinions, but he has not entertained that his opinions, in numbers, align with dominant trends in society that work to oppress women, immigrants, racial, religious, and sexual minorities, and others.
The choice to use the analogy of a Muslim woman choosing to not wearing a hijab out of safety is just plain insensitive, given that Quinn aligns with a political party whose presidential candidate has voiced support for a public registry of Muslims. The hijab is a symbol that conservatives have politicized for years, and Muslims are statistically shown to be targets of violence and hate crimes in America. Quinn’s fellow students and professors disagreeing with his conservative beliefs is in absolutely no way comparable to physical threats and violence experienced by Muslim Americans. His rationale for this claim, that “recent attacks on Trump supporters legitimize [the fear of discrimination],” is invalid, considering that these acts of violence were committed in response to racist provocations by right-wingers, not because of their isolated political views. In short, this was a lazy and ignorant attempt on Quinn’s part to equate his conservative beliefs to tangible oppression experienced by minorities.
There are several flaws of logic in this article. Quinn writes “liberation theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez, defines a ‘poor’ person … as a ‘nonperson,’ or someone who lacks a voice. According to Liberation theology, I am a nonperson. Yes, I have a voice. I am blessed with an education. I am by no means invisible. I am a straight, white, cisgender male.” I was confused by Quinn’s glaringly ironic reference to Gustavo Gutierrez, the father of liberation theology. Gutierrez advocated for poor and disenfranchised people afflicted by neoliberal economic policies that will surely continue to exist in a Trump administration. Frankly, it is offensive that this radical leftist perspective would be decontextualized, stripped of its liberatory content, and used in a way that defends everything that Gutierrez was against.
Furthermore, Quinn sets himself up in a paradox. In his own words, he is “a straight, white, cisgender, male.” He cannot politically align with the rich and powerful demographic in the United States and claim that he is oppressed for doing so. He does not fall under Gutierrez’s example of a nonperson by any means. Nobody is silencing him: not liberals, not academia, and certainly not Fordham University, as proven by the publication of this insipid article. Because he is unable to provide justification for his conservative opinions with strong facts and arguments needed to outweigh those of his liberal colleagues, and instead choosing to play the victim, Quinn experiences what he believes is discrimination.
At the beginning of his article, Quinn asks the reader to “imagine living in a world in which nobody agrees with you, a world in which you are embarrassed by your fundamental beliefs.” Now, I am asking conservative readers, to imagine living in a world in which a man who has come to represent white supremacy, xenophobia, misogyny, and more in his entire political career is not only pardoned, but has just been inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Normalizing bigotry has a ripple effect everywhere, including at Fordham. The appearance of a white supremacist flyer, several misinformed articles in the Ram, and the general apathy towards hate crimes on campus have created a culture at Fordham that sympathizes with fascism. If Fordham truly consisted of students who are “men and women for others,” we would realize that upholding the respect and safety of marginalized people is more important than pitying those who are apologists for bigotry.