Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
To begin I want to acknowledge my privilege as a straight white male. I will never be able to understand being targeted for my race, gender, or sexuality. Yet, acknowledging all of this – I still face judgement.
I picked Swat very intentionally.
Senior year of high school I was deciding between Lehigh, Villanova, and Swarthmore. Lehigh and Villanova are two schools dominated by straight white male athletes in fraternities. I fit into all of those categories. Would I have been be happier at either one of those schools than I would be at Swat? Hell yeah I would. But would my right-leaning beliefs ever be challenged? Probably not.
As a conservative student, I knew I wouldn’t fit the mold of the typical Swarthmore student. I knew that at times I would feel very alone.
I also knew that I would grow as a person, and my beliefs would be challenged. I would have to argue twice as hard as everyone else in order for my voice to be heard. And at times, I would have bite my tongue instead of being able to have to have a constructive conversation. I knew that I would graduate Swarthmore College knowing what I truly believe and knowing exactly how to articulate those beliefs.
So I picked Swarthmore. Since then…
On the first day of school, another student, now a good friend of mine, performed a rap at the open mic outside Sharples. He talked about killing people that watched Fox News. He talked about how Ronald Reagan was one of the worst things that ever happened to this country.
While this student was very eloquent and passionate — everything I look for in a rapper — this made me feel very unwelcome on campus. I didn’t think that I was going to be able to spend another four years here.
Two weeks later, I wore a Reagan-Bush shirt out on a Saturday night. I went up to a group of people who I had previously become friendly with, and tried to start a conversation. One of the boys told me to “fuck off.” I had no idea what the problem was… until he pointed at my shirt, and the same student said, “don’t come near us with that.” He didn’t ask WHY I was wearing the shirt.
I decided to pledge Delta Upsilon fraternity. When a girl said to one of my fellow pledges, “Oh wow! You’re pledging DU that’s so cool! You must love raping girls too!” and proceeded to walk away, she didn’t ask WHY I wanted to pledge DU.
On September 11th, I complained to the administration because the flag above Parrish was not lowered to half-mast, and proceeded to wait outside Parrish until the flag was lowered. In response, members of the community posted Yik Yak comments such as, “Lol at the proud Republican pretending to be sad on 9/11. Classic example of misguided patriotism.”
I wish people would just ask me WHY.
The one thing that all Swatties have in common is that we question and refuse to take anything at face value. Everyone here is so smart and open-minded, and I wish all of you would use those traits when you see me around campus.
Many of you may want to call me an ‘ignorant asshole’ but no one ever asks WHY about my beliefs. I want to sit down with you and have a constructive conversation. I want to have my mind opened and beliefs challenged.
I didn’t come here to pick fights. I just want to learn from all of you, and it has not been very easy.
If you had asked me why, I’d say:
I wear a Ronald Reagan shirt because he made most American citizens love America again, and he made our enemies fear us; however, I acknowledge that his economic policies contributed to the horrific gap between the rich and the poor that plagues our country today.
I pledged DU not in order to get drunk and hook up with girls. I pledged DU because I am on the baseball team and my friends are members of the fraternity. I pledged DU because it is my safe space on campus whenever I feel unwelcome; however, I acknowledge that bad things happen at fraternities and believe we need to rethink fraternity culture.
I mourn on 9/11, because I love this country more than anything. I mourn on 9/11 because I know many people that have served or are serving in the military. I mourn because I live in New Jersey and the devastation and horror of that day were so close to my home. However, I acknowledge that Islamophobia is a disgusting thing, and I even bought the Quran over break to better understand the religion.
The first step towards change is understanding the other side. If you want us conservatives to change, let us in! Instead of always denouncing us, approach us nicely and just ask WHY.
Even more importantly, why not just put politics aside and worry about whether we have other things in common like music, sports, books, hobbies, or anything! Can’t we all just get along?