In the wake of the terrorist attacks Friday night in Paris that left 129 dead and hundreds wounded, we can safely say the U.S. student protesters’ 15 minutes of fame are over. The protests, which began at the University of Missouri and Yale and quickly spread to other schools drawing national media coverage, were always quixotic, seemingly conjured out of thin air.
Vague accusations that minority students are systematically oppressed carried demands for “safe spaces” and an end to “microaggressions,” as if American college campuses today are enclaves of the Jim Crow South. Throw in calls for student debt forgiveness, free tuition, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all college employees, and you more or less had a series of Bernie Sanders rallies on campuses from California to Massachusetts.
The Paris attacks, perpetrated by a violent global movement animated by a fanatical interpretation of Islam, have unmasked these students’ claims for what they are: the narcissistic phantoms of a coddled and privileged generation. Oppression and bigotry are real, but you won’t find much of it on our college campuses.
We’re So Oppressed By Frou Frou Facilities
Consider elite Amherst College. A group calling itself Amherst Uprising last week issued a statement and list of demands to address “the legacy of oppression on campus,” which has made students and faculty alike “victims of several injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism,” and so on. Apparently minorities at Amherst, where tuition costs more than $63,700 a year, are suffering terribly under this historical yoke, and they demand redress.
Further down their list of demands is a frank rejection of the First Amendment: the college president must issue a statement condemning those who put up posters that proclaimed “All Lives Matter” and “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.” These were deemed “racially insensitive” to minority students on campus, “who are victim to racial harassment and death threats.” In turn of phrase worthy of the Cultural Revolution, those responsible for the offensive posters must be “required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.”
But are minority students at Amherst and other schools really victims of “racial harassment and death threats”? So far, most of the protesters’ claims of discrimination have been unsubstantiated or, in the case of the infamous poop swastika at Mizzou, not at all what it first appeared to be. (In an ironic twist, an Amherst faculty member associated with the Black Lives Matter movement issued death threats on social media against a local city council candidate in August, which police took seriously but the college defended as the exercise of free speech.)
In reality, the supposed oppression of minority students from Amherst to Mizzou appears to be for the most part nonexistent—at best aspirational. But little wonder that if you’re taught to see racial injustice everywhere, you’ll find it anywhere: rumors of black students being turned away from a Halloween frat party, an innocuous reference to fitting the “CMC mold” (for which Claremont McKenna College’s dean of students was forced to resign), or some yokel driving by flying a Confederate flag. Such is the weight of “systematic oppression” on American college campuses today.
Let’s Talk About Real Aggression
Compare these microaggressions to the macroaggression unleashed on unsuspecting Parisians. For the terrorists who slaughtered concertgoers and bombed the soccer stadium, bigotry and hatred and oppression are not theoretical playthings but vital parts of a demented religious creed.
Issuing a statement of its own in the wake of the attacks, ISIS claimed responsibility, calling the 89 people killed at the Bataclan theatre “apostates [who] had gathered in a profligate prostitution party.” Of the terrorists, ISIS boasted, “Allah conquered through their hands and cast in the hearts of the Crusaders horror in the middle of their land.” The attacks were a retaliation for France’s role in “the Crusader campaign” in Syria, and “the first of the storm and a warning to those who wish to learn.”
College students willing to shut down their schools and demand resignations over Halloween costumes and rumors of racial insensitivity are unable to recognize the face of true bigotry. They can’t even distinguish between microaggressions and terrorism. A surprisingly large number of Black Lives Matter activists took to social media over the weekend to complain either that the carnage on Paris would steal their media spotlight or that Mizzou and Paris were equivalent. Said one typical post: “Look at all the racists on Twitter using the Paris tragedy to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement at home.”
It’s no surprise, then, that many college students can’t even bring themselves to honor the victims of terrorism. Three days before the Paris attacks, the undergraduate student government at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities rejected a resolution calling for a campus-wide moment of recognition on future anniversaries of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“The passing of this resolution might make a space that is unsafe for students on campus even more unsafe,” said David Algadi, the university’s director of Diversity and Inclusion. “Islamophobia and racism fueled through that are alive and well.”
The students and sympathetic college administrators behind the protests, like many in the media, will no doubt conclude—as many of them already have—that the greatest thing we have to fear in the wake of the attacks is Islamophobia. The same delusion that makes them see racism and oppression everywhere also induces a fear of a backlash against Muslims that never comes.
The protesters are correct in exactly one sense: hatred and bigotry and violent oppression are alive and well in the world. But you won’t find much evidence of it on America’s college campuses. For those with eyes to see, you don’t have to look any further than the streets of Paris.
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