Politics & Policy

NYU Prof.: People Are Calling For ‘Civility’ to Protect ‘White Supremacy’

Protesters rally against Trump administration immigration policies in New York City, June 19, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
Apparently, calling for respectful political dialogue now aides white-nationalist extremists.

An educator at New York University is claiming that the real reason why people are calling for “civility” is because they want to protect “white supremacy.

Simran Jeet Singh, the Henry R. Luce Initiative in Religion in International Affairs Post-Doctoral Fellow at NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, published a series of tweets about civility and whiteness on Monday night:

Now, people have been debating “civility” ever since White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of Red Hen restaurant for her association with President Trump. The controversy heated up even more after Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters defended the Red Hen, saying that people should accost Trump administration officials when they appear in public and “tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Of course, I certainly would defend the right of any private business-owner to kick someone out of his or her establishment for political reasons. That’s just how things work in a free society, and living in a free society is a good thing. Personally, however, I would never do such a thing. Yes, I am among those who think that there’s a lot to be said for civility — and, regardless of what Singh may believe, that doesn’t make me a fan of white supremacy.

Like many people who have engaged in this debate, I would argue that civility is important on both sides of the aisle. I think that Democrats and other non-Trump supporters should behave civilly toward Trump supporters, and that Trump supporters should behave civilly toward their political opponents as well. I’ve seen people on each side display hostility toward those on the other, and I think that that’s always the wrong way to go. For one thing, it just isn’t nice. Having a political disagreement with a person isn’t a reason to dismiss that person’s humanity, and I’ve seen far too many people fail to recognize this fact.

For another thing, hostility is just not productive. Truthfully, remaining civil really is the best way to ensure that we are able to have the kind of mature conversations that can actually result in progress. Even though you might feel angry, and it might feel good to call someone a name or to mistreat them in some way, all that you’re doing by doing so is ruining any chance that that person will ever listen to a single word that you have to say. In fact, you reduce the chance that anyone will want to listen to what you say, because what you’ve just done is turned that other person into a victim and yourself into a jerk.

Politics can sometimes seem like a game, but it’s very consequential — the decisions that politicians make affect our everyday lives in major ways. Of course, I do understand that that fact is the reason why political debates can get so heated and personal. There’s passion involved, and passion sometimes makes it difficult to remain calm and respectful. But it’s still true that behaving in a civil manner is the best way to get people to hear your point of view, which should be your goal when you’re fighting for any policy or politician you care about.

If you disagree with Trump, that’s fine. In fact, I can admit that I am among the people who disagree with his approach to several issues, including his approach to immigration.  But I understand that harassing people and running them out of restaurants is not going to be the best way for me to get my point across. That’s not because I want to defend white supremacy — it’s because I live in reality, and I understand that civility is always the best way to get the results that I want.

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