Protesting Sessions is not protesting all conservatism

Alexandra Chang, Op-Ed Contributor

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In response to Mr. Abbot’s letter to the editor on October 17, 2019:

In a response to my column criticizing Northwestern University College Republicans’ invitation of Jeff Sessions to Northwestern, Mr. Ryan Abbott presented the argument that I am systematically intolerant of conservative speakers. However, his letter demonstrates that he clearly missed the central argument of my piece. Jeff Sessions is not an ordinary Republican.

Sessions had the well-established reputation of being one of the most conservative members of the Senate during his tenure; he was named one of the five most conservative senators by The National Journal. While Mr. Abbott’s claim that “most conservatives are not hateful or intolerant at all” cannot be confirmed or denied, Sessions absolutely is hateful.

Mr. Abbot points to a statement in my first column as evidence of my intolerance, but he fails to contextualize my claim in order to prove his point, writing, “The answer (to the question ‘Who is truly tolerant’?) lies within her op-ed: Miss Chang states that it is ‘difficult to dissociate conservative political thought from racism, sexism’ and other such evil ideologies.”

In my original article, I explicitly followed this statement with, “Nevertheless, it is possible to host a Republican speaker who has not spent their career directly targeting the identities present at this institution.” Additionally, I advocated for the invitation of conservative thought to our campus because “institutions of higher education can often be homogenous in thought,” or, as is the case at Northwestern, a strong liberal bias. Still, I believe that there are many options for conservative speakers who did not spend their political career marginalizing minority groups.

My final issue lies in the argument that, because “Mr. Sessions holds views shared by a large majority of conservative Americans,” he deserves to be heard and acknowledged, not protested.

Even if Sessions does hold the views of the average conservative — which I have already established as untrue — students should not simply accept this as the reality of conservative thought. Conservatives exist who have not actively oppressed others. If most conservative Americans are systematically unwilling to accept the identities of people for who they are, we do not have to stand idle. We can only achieve progress by fighting injustice, not accepting it. Furthermore, we have the right to voice our opinions through peaceful protest, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Especially considering the fact that freedom of speech has allowed for the publication of both of our columns, I find it hypocritical to attempt to subdue my First Amendment right to assemble.

To end his letter, Mr. Abbot suggests that “the best way to fight intolerance and hatred is to confront it and fight it, not ignore it.” It seems clear to me that protesting Northwestern University College Republicans’ event is a direct confrontation to Sessions, signaling that we are opposed to the decisions he made as Attorney General of the United States and a Senator from Alabama.

Ignoring “intolerance and hatred” would be neither attending Sessions’ lecture nor the protest.

Additionally, Northwestern University College Republicans does not deserve to cite our attendance as an indicator of success for their event or suggest that students approve of the decision to bring Sessions to our campus. I do not believe in protesting conservatism. I believe in protesting Sessions, and I hope my peers who do not approve of his record are willing to demonstrate with me.

Alexandra Chang is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at alexandrachang2022@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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