The Left loves to talk about the idea of the “lived experience” of their chosen special interest groups. As you might guess, one’s “lived experience” is just that: life experience. Specifically though for the Left, one’s oppressed experience! To bring up your lived experience is to recount the ways in which you feel you were microaggressed, or worse. For an example, someone in a minority group saying they feel alienated and isolated and that no one around them can relate to their life struggles in a majority-group environment.
Of course, from a Leftist view, this feeling of alienation and isolation in one’s lived experience is due to white people, and white males more specifically! However, believe it or not, any minority group can feel somewhat alone when others take for granted that not everyone feels and thinks as they do. This especially is true for one of the most overlooked types of minority groups: Ideological minorities. An incident from my college days resonated deeply for me as it made my ideological minority status stand out like a sore thumb.
Like many colleges, the one I went to has new “woke” diversity goals and training for students and faculty. There were complaints at my comparatively moderate school about a lack of diversity as well as feelings of being in the out-group by students and faculty of color. This surprised me in that I always felt my school to be a welcoming and inclusive environment, and was not the exclusionary hot spot it was accused of being. Never the less, the school took these allegations seriously and instituted even more aggressive diversity reforms as they genuinely did not want anyone to feel left out. Of course, the limitations of the new woke diversity agendas in general, are that they bring a substantial risk of stifling free academic speech and can come off as infallible edicts handed down from above, not to be questioned or critiqued. To my even greater surprise, a few faculty members and students wrote their own letter critiquing the college’s diversity plans. This letter merely said that those who wrote it were in favor of increasing diversity at the school, but felt the way it was being done was problematic in that it stifled free academic speech and forbid ideas against their narrative. I can’t show you the one I reference, as I don’t want to reveal specific identities of those involved on either side, but I’m sure others have written similar statements and got denounced just as much.
For this ideological heresy, many faculty and students reacted as if the letter’s contents were arguing for a whites only campus and KKK rallies! Calls for solidarity and emotional support as well as a space to “debrief” from the letter were emailed out to students. To many Left leaning students and professors, the letter critiquing the college’s position on their diversity initiatives was deeply upsetting, even traumatic. Honestly, I bet most never even read the letter in its entirety and only skimmed it before joining the chorus of outrage. They seemed to make a straw-man argument claiming those who wrote the letter were against diversity as a whole, not merely the approach to which it is done.
This story is old news of course, for many who have been in academia and experienced similar instances of collective outrage, but the magnitude of the outrage and grief was a bit of a shock coming from a more moderate school. So why was this mainly typical college experience so resonating for me? Let’s start with the e-mail sent out to all of campus and alumni. In it, it said that people were there for emotional support and that you (as in the reader) probably had a lot of feelings of outrage, hurt, anger and shock for some choice words. It also said resources were available for anyone needing to “debrief” after reading the letter. For those on the Left, this probably came as a welcoming reassurance, but they assumed everyone felt as they did.
When I read that e-mail, I too felt a sense of shock and confusion, but for opposite reasons. The “enemies” of this incident were the ones I cheered on, not denounced as the rest presumably did. I admired the courage it took for those who signed their names to that letter, as each risked their personal and professional reputations and the reaction from the rest of campus confirmed that. In reading the “official” reaction to the letter, I felt isolated, alienated and in the out-group. The inclusivity my school purported to foster did not reach me and anyone else who agreed with the points contained within the letter, or maybe simply could tolerate reading a view different from their own. The implicit message in all this: If you don’t denounce the views in that letter, you don’t belong in our “diverse” community.
If your opinions align with the majority opinion, it is easy to take for granted what it is like to feel accepted and affirmed. To get a sense of how isolating this can be, imagine yourself in a position where you admire a person everyone else denounces. What others are lamenting about as an issue you see as a solution. Not only that, those who think like you are not only wrong, but immoral! Imagine also, that you felt there was no one “safe” to open up to in expressing your views. How do you react when what supposedly makes everyone else feel self righteous “hurt, anger and grief” is what makes you feel relieved that others do think like you?
I don’t understand how so many honestly felt threatened by the mere statement of another perspective on an issue. The letter never argued for abolishing diversity, or claiming it to be non-important. It suggested that diversity initiatives could be done better another way than the current way. How is this different from the diversity committee having members who agree on the overall goals but quibble over how to best implement them? Even so, just because some people wrote a letter to the school doesn’t mean they’ll get their way! So what was so traumatic about it that it required “debriefing”? To me, it seems far more problematic to assume minority students and faculty are so fragile, so vulnerable that the mere critique of a viewpoint is enough to be considered emotionally traumatizing. Talk about condescension and infantilization!
A professional way to have handled a proposal they disagreed with would be to have simply said something along the lines of “we carefully considered your points and value your input, however we decided to move forward with our own plans as we feel they best suit our needs due to A, B and C, etc…”. I guess I can understand why they didn’t though: That would make them have to actually craft arguments to support their agendas and not just throw around buzz words and slogans.
I know by choosing to not think in lock step with the Left, I’ll experience many more instances like these where I am ideologically on the outs, but sometimes specific events stand out and make the sting of isolation feel fresh again. I don’t regret choosing to become an ideological minority in an increasingly Leftist society, as a mind free to think wherever reason leads it is a far greater reward than superficial acceptance. However I am also human, and sometimes, I need to be reassured that I’m not alone in being an ideological minority. That is my “lived experience”.
What’s been your “lived experience” in having a minority viewpoint? Please share in the comments!