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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Extremism inside the ivory tower

<oming up with this week’s topic, the differences I was thinking of were pretty small. The conservatism I was thinking of is, to places outside of the Carleton, pretty moderate. I was thinking of mainstream beliefs, such as those who don’t think capitalism is the root of all evil, and people who are religious and let those beliefs influence their politics. I knew there were differences at Carleton and small liberal arts colleges like it (which is why I came up with the topic), but I never expected to be reminded of those differences in such a dramatic, disturbing way. When I heard about the racist incidents happening at St. Olaf, I was shocked. This shock quickly turned into embarrassment at my own disconnect from issues of racism at Carleton. These incidents weren’t a shock to everyone; they were a shock to me due to my position of privilege. Because I’m white, I don’t have to think about race, and therefore I don’t notice all the racism around me. The differences I notice are ideological, and when compared to what happened at St. Olaf, are pretty small. They may seem like big differences, but this is only because Carleton’s ideological spectrum is a small subset of the greater spectrum. However, after this incident, I kept wondering whether there are people at Carleton who aren’t only on the “conservative” end of Carleton’s spectrum, but could be categorized as the alt-right by mainstream America. What happened was right across the river, so if it happened at St. Olaf, it could happen here too. If these beliefs exist at St. Olaf, they exist at Carleton as well.

The “conservative” beliefs I was thinking of can be discussed. Sure, they might not be fun discussions, but I have enough faith in us Carls that we would listen to each other. I might get frustrated with some of my fellow Carls, but even those I disagree with have well-thought-out, semi-rational arguments behind their beliefs. I can generally respect their beliefs, or at least respect their right to have them. However, those who are responsible for creating an unsafe, hateful environment at St. Olaf can’t be given respect because they have no respect for their fellow students. Their beliefs aren’t different, they’re wrong. They can’t be debated. They’re the reason Trump got elected; white people whose racism comes out when they think they won’t be caught. They’ll vote for Trump, but won’t be racist to people’s faces (but they’ll write horrible things on the Internet and racist graffiti). Yes, the narrative that the working class white voter won Trump the election is also true, but the alt-right isn’t limited to class (or gender). It’s also not limited to education-level, as can be seen with the events at St. Olaf. It was a reminder that extremism exists everywhere, even inside the ivory tower. And if it’s at institutions that on the surface are open and accepting, then it’s everywhere.

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