Dear Tell All: At a dinner party with friends on the near west side, talk turned to the recent racial incident at Camp Randall Stadium, where an idiot in a Donald Trump mask led around another idiot in a Barack Obama mask by a noose. This was a group of liberal wine-sippers, and all of them pounced on the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They unanimously criticized UW’s response: ordering the man to remove the noose and allowing him to stay in the stadium. They went so far as to call it proof of the university’s systemic racism.
I offered an alternative point of view and got trashed. In the heat of the moment, the actions of stadium staff seemed reasonable to me. It got the desired effect (stopping the offensive behavior) without causing a potentially explosive disruption (forcibly removing the idiots from the stadium and causing a free speech outcry on the right). UW-Madison immediately released a statement condemning the racist display, which was the right thing to do. When people suggested the condemnation wasn’t strong enough, the university released a stronger one.
So how does this prove that the university itself is racist? I myself have criticized the institution for previous lapses but don’t see the problem here. Two people did a bad thing and staff used its best judgment to defuse the situation. By indulging their outrage, the thundering moralists in my neighborhood and across the community seem characteristically self-righteous and self-aggrandizing. Why are they so reluctant to believe that UW-Madison hates racism as much as they do and tried its best under the circumstances?
I’m getting sick of the hair-trigger reflex to condemn and to hate, despite obvious evidence of good intentions. If fighting racism is the goal, how about focusing on clear and present dangers — for example, the forces of intolerance unleashed by the recent national election? By training their sights on fallible yet essentially benign UW-Madison, my friends have that much less energy for focusing on the real problem.
Anyway, that’s the argument I made at the dinner party, and of course it caused my friends to train their sights on me. It makes me despair of liberals ever getting anything done, especially in the age of President Trump.
A Racist, Apparently
Dear Racist: I won’t get into the specifics of your argument, as that’s outside my advice-column domain. But as for your interaction with your friends, part of me agrees with you and part of me doesn’t. Yes, Madison liberals can be self-righteous at times, and I applaud your attempt to question groupthink by presenting a counterargument.
That said, I can’t feel sorry for you because your friends didn’t immediately acknowledge your superior wisdom. There’s an argument to be made on their side. If you can’t handle the ferocity of a Madison-style political discussion, I suggest you start looking for different dinner parties.
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