Dear Conservative Democrats, You Can’t Tabulate Oppression

In
the latest issue of the Claremont
Independent, Taylor Schmitt PO ’17 tries to invalidate as many
liberal causes célèbres as humanly
possible. He denounces “campus progressives” for often “privileging narrative
over evidence,” making it hard for him “to sympathize with their cause” and
causing him to feel “embarrassed” to identify as a liberal.

While Schmitt does manage to raise some interesting points, most of his assertions
are dull, misleading or just dead wrong.

Such
is the case when he deduces that “many [liberals] don’t want
factual journalism at all” simply because they don’t bash MSNBC as much as they
do Fox News. Instead of criticizing corporate cable news media for purposefully
dramatizing its content in the hopes of selling more eyeballs to advertisers,
Schmitt simply touts the Republican line of crying bias without producing
anything substantive.

Schmitt
then moves on to Ferguson, where he pedantically concludes that it was “slanted
media reporting”—not that Michael Brown was unarmed, shot at 12 times,
left for dead on
the street for about four hours
 or that African Americans
make up 93 percent of arrests made by the Ferguson Police Department even
though they only make up 67 percent of the population
—which provoked
hundreds of thousands of people in Ferguson and across the world to immediately
put the blame squarely on former Officer Darren Wilson and all that he
represents.

Moreover, large-scale protests against Wilson were absolutely merited
when it became known that his extremely racist
grand jury testimony

and the wide variations
from eyewitness accounts
weren’t enough to require a trial. Schmitt even admits
that the evidence against Wilson is “inconclusive,” meaning that a trial
would have satisfied both of us. Unfortunately, justice was anything but served.

Next,
Schmitt critiques the nationwide movement behind Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University senior famous for carrying her bed
across campus

after the university exonerated her alleged rapist. Schmitt does well in
pointing out that the alleged attacker has been unjustly berated by the court of
public opinion. What Schmitt fails to mention is that the same man was accused
of sexually assaulting two other women at Columbia. Still, I agree that Sulkowicz’s
case is more complicated than what meets the eye.

Unsurprisingly, Schmitt’s following analysis quickly ends our short-lived cohesive relationship:

“To question the guilt of Darren Wilson was to be a racist, and to
question the veracity of Sulkowicz’s story was to be a sexist rape apologist … I
am struggling to come to terms with this new reality wherein sticking to an
objective view of the facts is considered a conservative trait. The campus
left’s complete unwillingness to adjust their opinions of these cases to fit
with the facts shows a thought process completely devoid of reason. Facts are
apolitical.”

On the surface, I sympathize with Schmitt. Many of
us have witnessed social justice activists call out individuals, whether it’s
online or IRL. This is why I’m sternly against such tactics, for they alienate
massive amounts of uneducated folks and are ultimately counterproductive.

But
after reading the piece over a couple of times, one thing became clear:
Schmitt doesn’t seem to care about the issues at hand whatsoever.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that protests against Wilson and behind Sulkowicz were more than just about two individual cases. Rather, they served as catalysts for a much broader critique of a racist and sexist society. This means that if Schmitt was against racist police violence—something
that stretches far beyond Ferguson
—he could very well protest the system and still be critical of
college liberals’ vilification of Wilson. In the same vein, Schmitt could scrutinize
Sulkowicz and her supporters and still voice concerns over sexual assault as a whole.

Nowhere does Schmitt ever come close to doing so. In
fact, he does the opposite.

Backed up by a handful of
hyperlinks, Schmitt spends the second half of the article desperately trying to
discredit the issue of collegiate sexual assault, the validity of trigger
warnings and the gender wage gap. Schmitt also claims that President Obama’s refusal
to refer to the Islamic State as Islamic “downplays alarmingly high levels of
sympathy for extremist movements in Muslim communities worldwide.” This last
claim is backed up by an article from Breitbart, an overtly biased news site that, as pointed out by one of the comments on Schmitt’s article, uses unreliable sources and lies about the data
obtained from others. Furthermore, a Gallup analysis of more than 130 countries in 2011 found that “one’s religious identity and level of devotion have little
to do with one’s views about attacking civilians.” 

This brings me to the article’s most rage-inducing
segment: Schmitt’s belief that his “facts” are “apolitical.”

For anyone who’s taken a quantitative methods
class, you know that (1) data is never perfectly collected and (2) with the
right methodology, you can make the numbers say anything you want. Data can
also be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the reader’s internal
biases.

This is the critique Schmitt wants to be making—that campus progressives are taking small, biased studies and blowing them out
of proportion for the sake of a cause. Yet that is exactly what he is doing. Instead of denouncing the frailty of
using singular and unique studies to make overarching generalizations, Schmitt
uses his own data sets to try and one-up the liberals. Not only is
Schmitt being fundamentally unproductive, he is also extremely misleading. 

So, to put it briefly: Apolitical? My ass.

By the end of the article, Schmitt is more Ted Cruz
than he is Elizabeth Warren. Despite his self-proclaimed blue innards, he is
hell-bent on slandering the struggles of millions of Americans by using
individual cases of possible misinformation as a way to ignore systemic
oppressions.

As explained by The New Republic’s
Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig
, this is nothing new for
Conservative, U.S.A.: “The right tends to pore over the specific details of high-profile
cases like those of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, concluding that if
those particular situations were embattled by complications or mitigating
factors, then the phenomena they’re meant to represent must not be real
either.” 

The Left, on the other hand, understands that discrimination manifests
itself in both clear and subtle ways, coming together “to form a tightly
composed set of prejudices and policies that are difficult to disentangle.” In order to understand oppression, then, the Left looks “at entire systems of
oppression, not just specific instances or behaviors.”

So maybe it’s not that we’re embarrassing you, Taylor. It’s just that you were already on
the other side of the fence and didn’t even know it yet.

Carlos Ballesteros CM ’16 is a flag-burning left-wing radical from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

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