Alfaro: Charles Murray’s visit ignores experiences of those he denigrates

Mariana Alfaro, Opinion Editor

Earlier this week, Ariel Sheffey explained why Northwestern students should be upset about Charles Murray’s visit to campus — a meeting that was surreptitiously slid into NU’s programming as a “lunch for students and faculty.” In extreme detail and with well-backed information, Sheffey wrote about Murray’s racist theories. And while I am upset about him visiting our campus, if College Republicans wants to have a meal with a man who believes black and Latinx people are genetically inferior, let it happen. But the group’s members better not complain when people call them out for it; that would be “snowflake behavior.”

Murray twisted science to make others believe non-white people are subordinate; disputing that should not be a partisan issue. It should be a common sense issue, much like so many things we discuss on this campus — from whether climate change is real (it is), to whether the Affordable Care Act repeal will kill people (it will), to how valuable Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients are to the United States (very). They are still very much worth examining, of course, but these truths should not be drawn on partisan lines. When this happens, when reality is accepted by only one side, debates are reduced to Twitter fights, leaving us unable to move from the most basic of premises.

When we get stuck in these arguments, we forget that, at the end of the day, these issues affect real people — humans with beating hearts, with families, who wake up each morning having to carry a burden of proportions many of us will be lucky never to face. When people dispute the existence of climate change, we erase the stories of those who lost their homes, their income, someone they loved or their own lives to rising sea waters, droughts or most recently, hurricanes and massive fires. When people boil down healthcare talk to a tax and money issue, they forget about the thousands whose lives depend on the program, as well as those who love them. When people dismiss DACA as another disruptive Obama-era policy, they erase the experiences of children who are American in all aspects but one — in paper. By refusing to acknowledge the people impacted by these issues, we strip away not only their humanity, but ours.

When Murray says that people like me, who make up around 12.5 percent of this campus’ population, are genetically inferior to nearly 48 percent of the students on this campus, it is not only ridiculous, it is also painful. Not because I feel offended by his lousy attempt at bigotry, but because it erases the many, many reasons why Latinx students at NU are at a disadvantage from their white peers. It erases our struggle, and it erases our humanity.

College Republicans said Murray is coming over for lunch because he was in the area. If the members want to pick his brain, they have the right to do that. Freedom of speech is on their side, and I trust them not to pick up his racist tendencies. What is wrong, however, is failing to recognize that they are validating his rhetoric, rhetoric that has been used against others, especially those less privileged.

When College Republicans brings Murray to campus, not only is it giving a platform to lies, it shows it equates the value of his false theories to the experiences and emotions of those he denigrates. It is OK to get angry when people erase the experiences of others — being upset about this does not make someone a “snowflake.” It just means that person is a sentient human.

The real snowflakes are those who get upset when they’re called out for endorsing rhetoric that erases experiences. It takes a certain level of sensitivity to be offended when you’re giving a platform to someone who offends so many more. If you’re going to endorse racist theories, then be prepared to take the hit. Because that criticism does not only come from a point of emotion, it comes from points of science and experience, while Murray’s theories come from provenly twisted sources.

Mariana Alfaro is a Medill senior. 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.