Milo Yiannopoulos is the latest in a string of far right-wing voices to salivate over an incident at Gustavus Adolphus College (which I attend) on March 20. The Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) put up A-frames advising students on how to respond to an incident of discrimination. Next to the A-frames was an example of such discrimination, where a sign was posted calling the United States a white nation, and asking citizens to report people who are undocumented. The right-wing media presented the poster on its own, chastising the DLC for spreading racism. The DLC soon apologized for the incident, which was a decision done out of compassion for those non-white student who may have been hurt by the poster. As a white person, it is hard to grasp the help or hurt of the actions done by this diversity group, so I will merely speak to the predatory response to this poster by white voices in the right-wing media.
Websites such as campusreform.org, Fox News, thefederalist.com and the National Review all became vehemently “anti-racist” in response to this incident. Not only have these outlets ignored the plethora of hate crimes that have occurred during President Trump’s administration, they seem to be using this story to dismiss the existence of hate crimes at all. Such reactionary opportunism can be seen at the crux of many of the arguments of these outlets. Fox News, for one, becomes an advocate of “life of children” as soon as women’s health is in question.
Even with a mixed perception, it took a great deal of courage to put up the poster, and organizations such as the Diversity Leadership Council should be commended for their efforts to cut against the grain of white supremacy. While right-wing media may have picked up this incident to prove that hate crimes are “fake,” the response perhaps fits with the larger purpose of silencing such groups as the DLC, which are asking critical questions about the structures that create white supremacism. The articles put out aim to shame DLC, placing them as the cause of the very structures they are attempting to challenge.
These groups’ little stunt wasn’t merely stupid; it also has the potential to create long-term harm. For one, it likely has hurt the school’s reputation. There are almost certainly people who heard only the news about the flyers, and not that the flyers turned out to be a hoax. What’s more, it may actually hinder these groups’ aim of achieving racial justice on campus.
This is consistent with what Henry A. Giroux calls “The War On Youth.” The silencing hand of these reactionary media outlets looks to suppress the critical questions asked by these young people (many of whom are non-white). Some of the critical questions that this poster provokes include: Why was the resistance to such a poster primarily among white people who hold racist viewpoints? For what reason was the story misrepresented, excluding the A-frame included by DLC? In what ways does this poster effectively pinpoint the contradictions between those who claim to be anti-racist, but also are anti-immigrant? Why does this incident gain more attention than actual hate crimes? In what ways was this poster effective in its goals of creating dialogue about racism?
While acknowledging that this poster may have caused harm that I cannot understand because of my identity, the fact that it made Gustavus an enemy of many white supremacist outlets in the United States is something to be proud of. Resistance is the only option in Trump’s America, which has confessed in more blatant terms the white supremacism of our country. A country that uses half of its budget to kill Black and Brown people over seas, yet fails to provide adequate housing, schooling, policing, water and equity to non-white people at home. Failing to resist is the greatest failure, and at worst, this was an attempt at resistance. At best, the DLC’s bold critique of the United States’ white supremacist policies and rhetoric was a real threat to the institutions in charge of its propaganda.