In the latest development in the controversy between the College Republicans and the “I, Too, Am USC” social media campaign, the president of the College Republicans, Jacob Ellenhorn, interviewed with The College Fix in June.
The interview closely follows the campaign’s May post, which spotlighted comments made by the College Republicans to criticize “I, Too, Am USC.” In response to the campaign’s creation of a safe space for marginalized communities on campus, these students posted unsolicited, discriminatory remarks as a way to further discredit minority students. In doing so, said members show that they are threatened when people, who are usually excluded and disenfranchised, are given a platform to support and empower one another.
Amid the racist, elitist overtones of the discussion present in both Ellenhorn’s interview and the original comments is a conscious disregard for the prevalence of white privilege and entitlement on campus.
One of the College Republicans members posted a meme stating: “I fight on because I am tired of getting weird looks for saying that I am a Republican and that I love my country.” By drawing a comparison to their own “victimization” as Republicans, many of whom are male and white, these specific members of the College Republicans discount the experiences of minority students.
Claiming to be a minority does not make one a minority — it is not a label to be thrown on for the sake of momentary advantage. Moreover, other comments said that the students featured in the social media campaign “live under ISIS,” and that “USG takes this group very seriously and funds them and their events with our money.” Referring to the USG funds as “their” money is an example of such entitlement; at the same time, their statement also puts minority students in the group of “other.”
These students’ actions provide proof of inherent and deliberate intolerance toward minority students, which, in turn, illustrates the legitimate need for the visibility that “I, Too, Am USC,” provides to minority students and their struggles. Their posts feature people of color, different sexual orientations, gender identities and socioeconomic backgrounds pointing out instances of very real, systemic discrimination.
A meme of a sophomore student quotes him saying, “I fight on because I know that I belong here just as much as any other student, and yet I constantly have to prove it.” A statement like this does not serve to undermine or discredit another campus group. To those who posted on the College Republicans page: inclusion on a university campus should not be so unsettling.
In an interview with The College Fix following the comments made on the Facebook page, Ellenhorn claimed, “There is all of this talk about creating safe places for people to express themselves, but if you had an opinion different than them you are not allowed.” But having an unpopular opinion does not equate to experiencing social injustice firsthand, and most importantly, the social media campaign is not comprised of a series of opinions but rather experiences. In calling himself and his organization a minority, Ellenhorn is not only contradicting himself and his reductive remarks, but he is also using the label as a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. These members have a critically important role to play in terms of inclusivity. Though they are, in most cases, unable to experience or speak on systemic oppression, it does not exclude them from being an ally to the cause.
There is actually a place for all College Republicans to show solidarity. These students are more than welcome to do what students of color, different sexual orientations, gender identities and socioeconomic backgrounds do in any other campus space — create their own place and include themselves. Yet by denying the marginalization of minorities, they are choosing to contribute to discrimination on campus. This type of ignorance does nothing but reinforce oppressive boundaries and further isolate USC students from one another.
By labeling themselves as a “minority” for the case of argument, the USC College Republicans are appropriating experiences of systemic racism, sexism and classism onto that of their own false struggle. They do so with the use of tongue-in-cheek diction and memes to belittle such appropriation. Instead of apologizing for their racist and uncalled-for statements, these students continue to fight on for discrimination and still have the audacity to cry out for inclusion.