The Whitewashing of Campus Conservatism

The Whitewashing of Campus Conservatism

“Stanford College Republicans Targets White Students,” read a Daily headline that purported to present breaking news, but instead presented slander. This snarky remark was inspired by an email sent to Stanford College Republican (SCR) members regarding an Admit Weekend event planned during the same time as ethnic and racial community centers welcome events. In this email, Nordquist implied that pro-fros planning to attend such “race-based events” are likely not interested in SCR’s work; ethnic and racially-based student groups are often involved in progressive politics and, therefore, Nordquist concluded “I’m guessing our target audience will be available.” The Daily, however, in reporting on this email, deliberately misled their readers, essentially implied that Nordquist was a racist, and failed to read through the lines for a little something called humor (albeit tasteless). It was a model of cherry-picking quotes and taking words out of context to portray the group as desired.

In attempting to satanize SCR as racially discriminatory, the Daily sacrificed the reputation of an SCR freshman and demoted the caliber of its ‘journalism.’ Such behavior seems to be repeating itself. In a blast investigating Turning Point USA, the FoHo exposed connections between a number of undergraduates and the organization, in turn “compromising the public image and privacy of… 19-year-olds for the great crime of being associated with conservatism.” Such journalistic practice, on the part of the FoHo and the Daily, has insulted the integrity of those young SCR members it has targeted, while simultaneously misrepresenting SCR as a wholly homogeneous group. A quick glance at the makeup of SCR’s board shows how incorrect this suggestion is.

SCR’s board is made up of ten individuals fulfilling roles such as President, Executive Director, Activism Director, and more. Only one of these ten positions is filled by a woman. While that is far from exemplary in terms of gender representation, the racial composition of the group tells an entirely different story. Of the ten board members, four are white, three are black, and three are Hispanic. The club’s president, John Rice-Cameron, is himself African American, and was preceded by Justin Hsuan, who is Asian. Compared to a school in which white students make up 36%, African American students make up 6%, and Hispanic students make up 16% of the undergraduate student body, SCR’s numbers are out of the ordinary and merit applause. For a school whose students arguably place greater emphasis on racial diversity than any other form of diversity, SCR should be looked to as an example.

The homogeneity of Stanford Democrats’ (SD) board is in stark contrast to the racial heterogeneity exhibited in SCR’s leadership. Stanford Democrats’ board is composed of eleven undergraduate students. Of those eleven, a significant majority are white males. Based on a combination of inquiries to the group and the Review’s own research, we estimate that of those eleven board members, eight are white, one is Hispanic, one is African American, and one is Jewish. I make no claims that SD has discriminated against students of color in its board application process. Nevertheless, for a campus group that has adopted a mantle of progressivism, espouses egalitarianism, and claims to “fully support the people [presumably minorities] Trump unjustly targets,” the demographic makeup of the group is remarkably white. These figures demonstrate that, at least with respect to collaborating with a party apparatus and engaging in government itself, Stanford’s Democrats are a predominantly white cohort.

I suspect that these statistics confound students and challenge their assumptions about these two groups. I myself was surprised by the intense homogeneity of SD upon attending a meeting of theirs last fall. Furthermore, I must concede that without concrete statistics, I too would fall victim to the assumption that a College Republicans chapter, at Stanford or otherwise, would be predominantly white. Nevertheless, SCR’s leadership suggests that for Republican students interested in representing and contributing to the GOP, conservatism on Stanford’s campus is not a ‘white movement.’

SCR’s board members offer some insight into why people assume homogeneity of SCR’s members and what has uniquely enabled SCR to defy these expectations. As for people’s assumptions of homogeneity, Ben Esposito, SCR’s Treasurer, explains that “college conservative groups are in fact often dominated by white frat boy types. SCR is different because it promotes traditional values, which attract people from all backgrounds, rather than the ‘socially liberal, fiscally conservative’” east coaster. And finally, in a gibing fashion, Quinn Barry, SCR’s Executive director, argues that “people assume we are all white because that fits the left’s narrative and then they don’t have to actually address the issues we bring up. If they acknowledged SCR was considerably made up of POC, [the left] would have to address the fact that diverse people are attracted to the conservative movement.” The underlying sentiment of these remarks is that the overarching beliefs SCR espouses unify and inspire people of all backgrounds. For SCR, principles transcend person.

Given the fact that this campus places such great value on promoting and cultivating racial diversity, it seems almost too convenient that campus publications, and particularly the campus left, have failed to applaud and indeed have overlooked the racial diversity of SCR. If the Daily or campus activists were to recognize SCR’s remarkable diversity, that would give them too much credit and legitimacy. Consequently, this feat has gone unnoticed.

While Stanford Democrats may be stuck in the old habits of its party — one that lacks energy, vision, new blood, or diverse members — Stanford College Republicans has broken this mold. SCR has mobilized a cohort of students formerly ununified. The media attention that the group and its leadership have received — whether in Stanford Politics, the Daily, or the FoHo — bring to light the movement that SCR’s revived leadership has launched. The final step in this recognition is to acknowledge the group’s diversity and representation. Despite Stanford Politics’ portrayal of John Rice Cameron’s preppy attire, and much to the left’s chagrin, SCR is not a bunch of white guys wearing Vineyard Vines and khakis and going off about taxes. It is incorrect to caricature the group and its members as such. While I myself, as a registered Democrat, disagree with SCR’s politics, I recognize that defaming one’s opponents as ‘racist bigots’ instead of actually refuting their policy proposals is not a viable strategy. The Democrats’ loss in 2016 proves this reality.

It is time to wake up: the left must stop white-washing (campus) conservatism.

As an aside, all members of the SD board were contacted; some of them did not respond to inquiries regarding the racial background with which they identify.

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