by Josiah Van Wingerden, ’17
I am writing this letter to respond to the article titled, “Conservative Opinions Overlooked at Whitworth,” published in the Whitworthian Opinions Section on March 21.
The purpose of my response is not to shame or condemn the author or school newspaper; rather, my hope is to start a constructive conversation about political opinions, affiliations and the environment of Whitworth. To anyone who may read this letter, I ask that you read carefully and thoroughly.
I’ll respond to each major point made in the article, so I apologize if the letter is a bit lengthy. But it’s so important.
In the first paragraph of the article, the author states that he is a proud conservative, that he loves this country, its laws and guns, that he does not support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals legislation and that he will not apologize for his race (or gender)— Caucasian and male.
Let me be clear that I have absolutely no issue whatsoever with him being conservative or with what he believes. We have the right as people to express our views. And I’m actually glad that he is. It just may be the spark that starts conversations and inspires us to listen to one another.
However, I believe the author is gravely mistaken on multiple fronts. It is because of this belief that I felt compelled to respond to the article and offer a difference of perspective and values.
Universities and colleges are supposed to be places where people come not only for education, but also to be exposed to different people, beliefs, values and views. So that people can be more thoughtful and compassionate. So people can think critically about our society and thus, be better equipped to “serve humanity.” And that means all of humanity. I hope the author understands that.
Regarding the idea of apologizing for race, no one asked him to. As a person of color who attended Whitworth the same time as the author, I never asked him to. The thought of that never even crossed my mind.
The color of a person’s skin is determined biologically during development, influenced by the genetic makeup of the parents. This means that a person has literally no control over what he or she will look like.
We have no control over what color our skin will be, what our body can and cannot do, what socioeconomic class we’ll be born into, where we’ll be born or if we’ll even be born at all.
On the other hand, “race” is a man-made historical construct designed to categorize people and to falsely “define” what it means to be black, brown, tan and white.
People of color are not asking white people to apologize for being white. Trust me, we don’t want it. Why would we ask someone to apologize for something they have no control over? That does not make sense.
Rather, it has been white people who have been asking people who are not white to stop talking about how their races have affected the way we interact in this country. But we are not going to stop talking about it.
It seems like the author is playing the victim throughout the whole article— saying that he as a conservative, middle-class, white male— feels that he cannot adequately articulate himself without fear of ridicule.
However, since the inception of the United States, white men have never had to apologize for being white. White men have never been unwelcomed in this country or at colleges. White men have always had the power in this country and thus, the ability to enact legislation and place systems and structures that benefit them.
White men are the only major people group that has not experienced some form of marginalization based on race or biological predisposition. Almost every other major race of people has.
This is called “white-privilege.” This is all people of color like myself want you and others to acknowledge. We do not want pity or apologies, but a desire to learn about others and an attempt to reach a mutual understanding of history.
Acknowledge the fact that white people, heterosexual men specifically, have had and still have the upper hand and more opportunity to succeed in this country. And they’ve had it for a long time.
This country was founded by white men and for white men, to promote ideas and enact laws that specifically benefited them and no one else. Including educational institutions like Whitworth.
In the second and third paragraphs, the author states the theme of the whole piece—that he feels unwelcome at Whitworth because he is a conservative and Whitworth is a “liberal” institution that pushes for diversity. He also says he disagrees with the student government’s decision to support DACA.
First, supporting DACA does not mean that Whitworth is a liberal institution. Or that the majority of its students are liberal; let’s not get confused. I’d actually suggest the opposite and so do recent decisions made by administration and faculty members, which were supported by its students just last year.
For example, the administration of Whitworth cut ties with Planned Parenthood last year. Beck Taylor stated that the university would no longer offer experience or internship credits for its students through the organization.
Additionally, the Students for Life and Young Americans for Freedom clubs, both outwardly rooted in conservative beliefs, have a significant presence on and off campus.
Those two clubs are also affiliated with the national organizations. And both were chartered by the student government with support from their peers.
Conversely, the “pro-choice” student club, Generation Action, was not allowed to have affiliation with any national organization. It was not chartered due to lack of support.
So no, Whitworth is not a “liberal” institution, as the author claims. It is still rooted in and supports conservative beliefs and ideas, like other institutions before it.
And, I truly mean no disrespect to anyone when I say this—especially David Garcia, Shawn Washington, Lulu Gonzalez or Beck Taylor for their efforts—but Whitworth is not a diverse institution.
While it is true that the number of underrepresented students has jumped significantly in recent years, Whitworth still has a long way to go to achieve its diversity goals.
Black, Hispanic, Asian and LGBT faculty, staff members and students are still underrepresented at Whitworth and in Christian Higher Education in general, as are people with varying levels of physical and mental abilities.
Whitworth students, staff, faculty and administration members are all still predominantly white, conservative, Christian and middle-to-upper class.
So, I guess I am having a hard time understanding why the author feels so unwelcome at a place that was made for him.
In response to loving guns and opposing stricter regulations, gun control does not mean taking all guns away. Gun control does not mean changing the Second Amendment.
It is the idea that we as a society should make it harder for a person to abuse gun ownership by running more thorough background checks and comprehensive gun safety courses. Gun violence has to stop. I think we can all agree on that.
It seems like the author randomly throws a jab at DACA, saying he doesn’t support it, but doesn’t give a reason why. I am not saying that he has to necessarily, but it’s a cheap shot. Does he want members of the Whitworth community to be subject and vulnerable to deportation? If so, why?
DACA is not a political issue— it is a human one. That is why it is “preached” in the chapel.
By the way, the forum on Planned Parenthood when Beck made his statement was held in the chapel and I didn’t hear conservative or liberal students complain about that. Liberal students actually showed up to the forum.
Many families leave their countries because of political unrest, oppression, violence and turmoil. They are constantly told that “America is the land of opportunity,” and they just want those opportunities, hopes and dreams for a better life here.
That is why they are called “DREAMers.” DREAMers go to Whitworth. They pay the same amount of tuition and fees every year as you. They are there for the same reason as you are: education.
They grew up in this country. They have jobs. They pay taxes. They contribute heavily to society. They are talented. They do not attack, harm or hurt you in any way.
They were not brought here of their own accord; they had no choice. Neither did their parents and families. Why should we punish them for that?
Their fear of being deported and having their lives fundamentally changed because of that is real. I want you, the author, to understand that fact.
I understand that you, the author, will believe what you want to and that my response is not going to fundamentally change those beliefs. I get that. I respect that. I just hope you take the time to read this and understand the point of view that I’m coming from.
The author asked for others to be more considerate and thoughtful at the end of his piece, so I am asking something of him to end mine.
Before he says he feels unwelcome again, I’d ask that he consider who and where he is, what he believes, what he can do and where he comes from, and what that means for him, not only at Whitworth, but also in society as a whole.
His voice has always been heard. He is welcome at Whitworth and anywhere he goes. He has been for the longest time.