Recently it emerged that some idiots chalked UCSD in favor of a certain Donald J Trump.

Pro-Trump chalking

This happened the night before admit day at UCSD. Custodians worked to remove it, but a significant amount of chalk remained. This spawned substantial outrage on certain Facebook groups. I’m not sure what to make of this. On one hand, evidence suggests those chalking this stuff are more or less trolling. Other statements such as “Trump will make anime real” were reportedly seen. On the other hand, I’m finding trolling in favor of Trump increasingly less justifiable

It’s a free society and people can do what they want in terms of expressing their beliefs. Those on the Facebook group and elsewhere have voiced their strong opposition. Very few people seriously support Trump. It’s hard to say definitively, but I’d be surprised if what was said was not done for the sole purpose of being offensive, for the sake of being offensive. Or, perhaps in their mind edgy, although I don’t think it’s reasonable to try to draw such a distinction. It’s also unearthed a lot of antagonism towards those who chalked it. A Sanders or Clinton chalker would probably not get this sort of antagonism (that being said, there is a good reason for this antagonism, the rhetoric here is pretty ridiculous, if not vile.) This alludes to the paradox of tolerance which is a paradox for a reason.

One person said “Hello UCSD students who think racism on campus is not a problem. WE HAVE A PROBLEM.” Well, five people did this. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to eliminate intolerance, but to some degree it could be argued making a huge deal out of this (either trolling or fringe) action could simply give those chalking what they want: either annoying what they may see as overly PC liberals, or simply getting publicity. I don’t think much of the people who did it, and I think the best way to minimize the impact would be to either ignore it, or voice strong positive opposition.

University policy explicitly allows for chalking. So here we are, the paradox of tolerance. Is the best action to remove the chalk? To ignore it? To let it stand? To open discourse? I generally am of the opinion that discourse is helpful, but the more I think on this issue the more I think it’s simple trolling.

This is similar to my thoughts when I encountered two UCSD students on my flight to Northern California with Make America Great Again hats. They were trying to be edgy, and when confronted by a hispanic woman upon landing looked really sheepish and took them off. In this situation, confrontation was possible, and was likely the correct approach. Now, when it’s near impossible to know who chalked, confrontation isn’t a viable action. It’s also possible they’re shameless, in which case confrontation might just embolden them.

However, one of the things that came out of the discussion on Facebook was the notion that incidents like this are why the Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) general education requirements are core. I don’t buy this argument for several reasons. Some of the upper division courses probably provide a solid perspective into these issues. People who might otherwise hold bigoted beliefs might have their minds changed. But this chalking incident came from people who are in one of the following groups:

  • Is actually a bigot/racist
  • Wants to incite outrage
  • Slow-witted troll who doesn’t realize it will incite outrage

The DEI requirements allow for a tremendous variety of coursework, and some of them look really interesting, to be fair. Most of the upper division coursework would only be taken by those people who are interested in the subject matter to begin with. This isn’t guaranteed per se, but I think we can assume people wishing to avoid the more difficult courses that may have prerequisites will take the lower division requirements. Furthermore, I believe there is another requirement American History & Institutions which overlaps with almost only lower div courses. In any case, I was told by counselling that there were several courses which I should take for the requirement to kill two birds with one stone, such as Ethnic Studies, or Anthropology 23 (Debating Multiculturalism, Race Ethnicity and Class in American Societies). These fields are somewhat interesting, and there is a fair bit of academia focused around them. That being said, I took ethnic studies and found it to be fairly logic-free. Logical questions during lecture were regularly dismissed as illogical, but no logical answers were provided. For example, it was suggested the Apache attack helicopter was named as such to demean native peoples. Somebody asked why and got back “it’s quite obvious, given the narrative of the course.” We shouldn’t be making assumptions based on the narrative of a course, we should be utilizing clear thinking. I don’t claim to be doing this here, I’m more or less writing on my unclear thoughts, but when teaching a course, it ought be predicated on empirical and clear thought. These courses also encourage the suppression of free speech should it be considered offensive, but (in my course specifically) failed to provide clear justification.

Perhaps people just don’t think these days, but I don’t see these lower division requirements as discouraging people from engaging in behavior like chalking for Trump.

If you’re a bigot/racist, discussion about how everyone is racist is likely to further motivate you. If you want to incite outrage, these courses tell you exactly how to do it. And if you’re slow-witted, it’ll inform you it will incite outrage. These lower div courses, instead of dialoguing about racism, how to combat it, and its roots, immediately go to the extreme. All existing institutions are racist. We must abandon the past in a context-free way. And perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think that does a lot to sway those who might chalk for a certain idiot towards not chalking for him.

You know what might? A conversation about humanity, human rights, and a more objective history of xenophobic racism. When we clearly define those things which are problematic, and the problem isn’t the fabric of western society, and when they emerge one can point them out. My concern is that this academic critique (ethnic studies etc) doesn’t really relate well with the average person. And when they start writing off valid racism as “pushback against those nuts that think the Apache helicopter was an attempt to hurt native peoples” then perhaps it will be apparent these justice-oriented structures-oriented coures on racism don’t do much to actually inform those who are forced to take one class in it.