Patterson: Dear Republicans, don’t say you are marginalized because you’re a minority at Northwestern

Sky Patterson, Op-Ed Contributor

Republicans on our campus: You may have felt unsafe or that your opinions are not valued or even considered. You may have lost friends or had your reputation denigrated. As a conservative in a classroom full of liberals, you may have felt uncomfortable expressing your ideas. Mainstream stereotypes about you are not always true. You are not all white, nor in love with the National Rifle Association. Because fewer people on campus are inclined to agree with you, some of you have expressed that you are marginalized or compared your experience to that of a minority student.

“I don’t feel persecuted per se, but for the first time in my life I have felt significantly like a minority,” Weinberg freshman Drew Zbihley told the Daily in October.

And yet, liberal intolerance in the classroom is not a systematic oppression. To call a political ideology a marginalized identity because it is in the minority on a college campus (but in control of the House, Senate and presidency after this election) trivializes actual marginalization in education.

The fear of speaking up in class is different than the fear that you won’t be believed by the University after being sexually assaulted. It’s different than crying in your dorm room because you can’t afford textbooks. It’s different than having to search for events on campus that have free food because you can’t afford groceries for the rest of the month. It’s different than feeling anxiety because you don’t trust University Police, Evanston police or police in general. It’s different than learning a whitewashed curriculum in your core classes while your culture is offered as just an elective. It’s different than walking to class everyday on a street that is named after a man who participated in the genocide of your indigenous ancestors. In fact, it is not even comparable.

College Republicans is an organization that exists and should exist on campus for some of you to find commonality among each other. But conservatives do not need a physical building designated as a safe space because your ideology does not cause you to be bombarded by structural inequalities that exist both on campus and off campus.

Because some students have identities that are targeted in the larger social world outside of Northwestern, they come into and leave college disadvantaged. Academic tracking in high school disproportionately places low-income black and brown students on lower level tracks, which affects college readiness. Standardized testing is culturally and socioeconomically biased; low-income people of color systematically score lower on the SAT than their white, upper-class peers. After graduation, students might be turned down for a job or for housing because of their race. Even after getting a job, women — especially women of color — are less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts. This is unlikely to happen to a student because of political leanings.

Political ideology may affect Republican students during academic conversations or in social interactions, but is a far cry from the experience of students who face discriminatory systems, practices and policies.

We must think structurally. To determine whether or not you are marginalized, think about which identities are entangled within your political ideology. Are you a white, male, upper-class Republican, or are you a black, lesbian, low-income Republican? Political ideology is related to and influenced by these other types of identities, but they are not the same. You choose political ideology; people do not choose their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. To suggest they are comparable minimizes the experiences of students who are actually marginalized on our campus and in mainstream society.

Sky Patterson is a SESP sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.