Opinion | Stop letting conservatives get famous for being offensive

Opinion by Mikayla Tillery
April 13, 2021, 8:29 p.m.

Five months ago, Lucy Kross Wallace published an article in The Daily titled “The case against BLM.” With every word, I found myself more and more frustrated, and I was not alone. The commenters and readers all seemed to agree: Her article was both ill-informed and problematic. Within the first four days following its publication, two letters to the editor had been published condemning her piece.

Recently, I started questioning why her article had among the most reader engagements of any opinions piece The Daily published last year. There were plenty of opinion pieces diving into race at Stanford, and these articles provided a much more critical discussion than “Should Black Lives Matter exist?” But still, we collectively chose to engage with Wallace’s article instead.

When we spend so much time responding to the uninformed articles of non-Black people while ignoring thinkpieces from those with lived experience, it shows that we are not dedicated to centering Black voices or even holding people accountable in a way that reduces harm. 

For Wallace and the commenters that supported her, no amount of public outrage would scare them out of their opinions — they already acknowledge that they’re in the minority. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we as readers knew this, and that was precisely why we felt so comfortable in condemning her. It meant that we didn’t have to have difficult conversations; we just wanted to prove that we were on the “right side.”

After months of reflection, I find myself unsurprised that the most prolific and popular discussions about Black liberation at The Daily center non-Black voices. Our culture of calling out, making a spectacle of accountability, is ultimately counter-intuitive to mitigating oppressive or harmful behavior. Instead of helping, it rewards the loudest performances of wokeness or, in Wallace’s case, subversion, at the expense of marginalized voices.

When it comes down to it, we shouldn’t be entertaining uneducated “hot takes” on an issue from those who have nothing to lose and whose citations come from Twitter threads. At this point in 2021, there is no excuse for being uninformed on human rights and civil rights: It is a conscious choice to be blissfully ignorant or intentionally racist. No amount of friendly debate or public callout will change the perspectives of non-Black people hellbent on blaming the injustices Black people face on our culture, or our family structures, or our genetics.

This marks a pattern of redundant conversations being used to platform white supremacists, seen time and time again with Kaitlyn Bennett, Ben Shapiro, Tomi Lahren, Candace Owens or whatever conservative made the most offensive comment of the month. In every way, their careers are built upon liberal outrage and people “hate-watching.”

Bennett herself admits: “I just want to remind everyone that I didn’t gain ‘fame’ on my own. People only know who I am because of leftists who have been giving me free promotion for two years now. The people mad at my existence are the ones responsible for my platform.” In situations like these, liberals and leftists entertaining regressive arguments leads to validating and platforming harmful people.

In reference to policy, look to when the GOP made their opposition to gay marriage a pillar of its 2020 platform. The fact that we are still allowing the conversation of marriage equality to take up bandwidth when Black trans women are slaughtered in the streets and conversion therapy thrives in dozens of states is a testament to the fact that we have to start moving on. When do we stop taking time to spoon-feed people who have no intention of listening to marginalized voices?

While I won’t shame anyone for arguing with their conservative relatives at dinner, at best, these debates are a waste of time. At worst, we are platforming racists and white supremacists, giving them a larger audience to share their views. No matter how measured the intent, even the most well-meaning engagement with these racists can result in validating regressive arguments as just a “difference of opinion.” When the audience walks away from these debates thinking that both sides have equally radical but valid points, the Overton window shifts further and further right. 

As liberals and leftists — oftentimes with budding savior complexes — we hope against hope that we can be the ones to dismantle white supremacy with a single tweet or a thoughtful comment. The fact that bigoted people exist is out of our control. What we do have control over is if we choose to share our platforms with these racists when we debate them. Before making the Instagram story or posting to Stanford Missed Connections, we have to ask if humiliating a Republican is worth incentivizing racist people to make more traumatizing statements all while needlessly exposing marginalized people to harm. 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to address accountability or decide who deserves to have their points engaged with. Sometimes, calling out is necessary to reduce immediate harm. Other times, calling in is a way to make long-term behavioral changes. And in situations like these, I’d rather reserve my bandwidth so I can engage in other discussions. Using discretion to determine what is the most productive use of energy can contribute to us reassessing how we approach racist statements, articles and people. In a perfect world, this allows us to stop performing accountability and start having the critical conversations needed to make our campus a more progressive place that centers the voices of marginalized students in conversations about oppression.

In the end, Wallace isn’t owed the respect nor civility of the same Black people she insulted. The discussion of calling in versus calling out should not be used to silence the valid anger that marginalized people feel when reading an article so hurtful. At the same time, some of our reactions are examples of misplaced energy. Going forward, we must reevaluate whom our outrage serves.

The Daily is committed to publishing a diversity of op-eds and letters to the editor. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email letters to the editor to eic ‘at’ stanforddaily.com and op-ed submissions to opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

Follow The Daily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Login or create an account