The Denisonian

Leveraging our privilege: Being a devil’s advocate undermines POC issues

OMARI GARRET ’21

SPECIAL TO THE DENISONIAN

Free speech is under attack. Still reading? Okay, listen, there is a problem: white nationalism.

It is spreading across college campuses around the world, specifically the U.S.

Recently, campus republicans at Columbia University invited white nationalists Mike Cernovich and Tommy Robinson to speak on campus this semester.

This comes after several universities denied Richard Spencer, who led white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville August 12, to speak on their campuses amid safety concerns.

So let’s talk.

White nationalism’s ethos is born out of acknowledging racism’s existence, and what’s even more contested, its crippling effects, as nothing more than a liberal bias.

Many passively enable white nationalism via their devil’s advocacy.

It is good and well to be critical of the information we consume and make our best attempts to test its truth.

Often the devil’s advocate is someone who tests the validity of a certain truth.

However, this has been co-opted by white nationalism as a method of deceit and delegitimization of equity for black and brown people, the denial of racism and the claim to white superiority.

Being a devil’s advocate is seen as innocuous and substantiated on the perversion of critical analysis.

What follows from this is not speakers coming to campuses to challenge progressive ideology, but rallies empowering and emboldening of white nationalism.

What happens in this context is that such incendiary rhetoric is worshipped and consumed by white aspirational, white adjacent and white nationals, though to varying intensities, uncritically, and heralded as that which questions and responds to the claims of the other side.

Arriving here it could be noted that speakers, such as Mike Cernovich, empowering white nationalist sentiments, may be an inapt medium for debate and dialectic.

Yet, what is of more import, again, is historicizing the complicity that devil’s advocates, contrarians and gaslighters alike all have in enabling white nationalism.

Perpetuating unwarranted criticism fuels microaggressions, racist jokes, and effectuate real, visceral problems in the livelihood of black and brown peoples.

We must recognize what happens after the gaslighting is over: white nationalists have the privilege to go home and sleep soundly.

Meanwhile, the lives of black and brown people have been thrown into jeopardy.

This leads to the security of hate speech under the guise of free speech, which normalizes and makes space for microaggressions, segregation, exclusion and prejudice.

As for those of us who do have the capacity to recognize racism and its vestiges, it is not enough to acknowledge our privilege, racism and xenophobia. It is not enough to simply like, or be comfortable around, black and brown people.

These things do not disavow us of being anti-black or xenophobic.

When we reflect on our actions and cannot locate instances in which we have, we continue to and plan to utilize our privilege for the benefit of others, for equity.

Before we attempt to engage in counter-advocacy of any form, we need to recalibrate our lens of criticism on ourselves.

Equity is about removing the unethically obtained excesses of power and resources in our lives and using that surplus to create or contribute to long term social and economic stabilization of black and brown peoples.

In place of being edgy or reaping the benefits of the social capital associated with recognizing our privilege, let’s give examples of the ways in which we have and plan to risk something for equity.

1 Comment

  1. Rebecca Kennedy September 28, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Well written piece and you handled yourself admirably last night on TC. The show is a snake pit and TC was never going to give your ideas a fair hearing, framing his questions themselves with preemptive dusnissals. The trolls are out (hello Trolls!^^^), but dont let them get to you (or the rest of the Denisonian staff–keep writing, all).

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