Conservatives are not oppressed

At issue: Conservatives feel outnumbered at Emerson

Our take: That doesn’t mean they’re oppressed

Conservative students at Emerson are few and far between. There is no denying that. But just because they’re a minority in numbers, does not mean that they face the oppressions of those deemed minorities in our society and even our campus.

Oppressed people don’t have the opportunities afforded to others in a system, typically to the benefit of the oppressor. But the educational system in which we all operate affords conservatives the same opportunities as the most staunchly liberal students.

Here’s the rub. Conservatism is a belief, not an identity. It may be an essential piece of the way someone thinks, but it does not come with the same strings as people’s actual existences. Those who face discrimination in everyday life don’t have the luxury of changing themselves after reading a really good New York Times op-ed. Conservatives do.

We acknowledge that conservatism is a valid political alignment. But conservatism that doesn’t respect other people’s humanity is not. One’s outlook on the world might be narrow simply because of their upbringing. But all of us at Emerson have the opportunity to learn about how power and privilege work across this country—so there’s really no excuse to be ignorant on this campus.

We can still improve how we talk about conservatism on this campus. Instead of immediately shutting these students down, we should try to get an understanding of why they hold these beliefs. Of course, the onus shouldn’t be on oppressed people to educate their more conservative peers. Instead, we can all do our part and contribute to the emotional labor that comes with informing others in a constructive way.

We’re not demanding that all conservatives on campus give up and renounce their political views. But ultimately, people choose their ideologies. And when your choices stomp on the rights and liberties of folks who can’t change who they are—well, that’s just not something we’re willing to tolerate.

Making assumptions about people based on their political beliefs helps no one, and halts essential conversations. Giving people we don’t automatically agree with a chance to explain themselves—while continuing to push back against legitimate hate—can bridge the gap that is currently fracturing our campus.