“I’m offended that you’re offended”
KEVIN NELSON | MANAGING EDITOR | THE USD VISTA | @KNEL17
British author Christopher Hitchens once said, “It’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard; it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen and hear. And, every time you silence somebody, you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself to hear something.”
It is from those who speak up, go against the grain, and question society that creates the change this world constantly needs is created. Although in the past free speech has been welcomed, today’s society is becoming more and more politically correct. With the increase in our political correctness grows the willingness to quickly suppress those who speak out against it.
The fear of someone offending someone else or some group is ridiculous. Everyday, I see a new ad telling me what I can or cannot say, or what I can do or can not do.
Whatever happened to the first amendment? The amendment that our forefathers fought for, the amendment that allowed the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to speak up and make change in our community. The very first amendment that allowed for the freedom of speech and expression.
Did people find these rights activists to be offensive when they spoke? Absolutely. Offense is taken not given, for different people take offense to different things. That means whatever offends me, offends you, and offends others does not line up. Most of what is considered normal in today’s world was once viewed as offensive and outcasted.
Yes, I say normal, a word I was told not to use anymore, because being normal is apparently something bad now. Being a normal guy is something that could ruin someone’s life. Do I try to hurt someone when I say normal? Do I try to wrongfully group others together? No.
Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s my New Jersey upbringing, but I don’t need to be pampered or consoled by my mother every minute. I think every child is told the lesson, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. When did that change?
In today’s society, people seem to be so scared that they are going to offend someone. It is as if it’s causing them to catch some disease or be physically hurt. Now, to clarify, bullying is not the same as offending. Bullying consists of words that can hurt. However, when it comes down to political or social issues that offend you, I don’t care. In fact, the comedian Steve Hughes once said the powerful words that echo through this piece.
“I am offended that you are offended.”
In recent news, students criticized Yale professor Nicholas Christakis for a campuswide email. Christakis sent an email to the student body that encouraged students to turn the other way if they were offended by someone else’s Halloween custom.
Yes, this situation occurred at Yale, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. A place that helped pioneer both education and rights, yet some students don’t seem to understand the rights of others. You have absolutely every right to be offended at a costume that blatantly attacks your religion, race, and culture. You do not have the right to suppress and deny a person from his/her freedom to express his/her opinion.
I applaud Professor Christakis, one of the few administrators around the country that has stood up and, in doing so, unintentionally offended his own students. He tried to get a point across that seems to be lost in today’s society: the real world is not fair. Whether someone randomly starts to argue with you about abortion or you get offended at someone in an offensive Halloween costume, you have to deal with it. You can’t call Public Safety to come move them from your line of sight.
Universities are playing a large part in censoring their own students. In doing this, these universities seem to be causing their students to be ill prepared for the real world. A student can always find comfort in a sheltering university, but the point of a good university is not to coax you. Giving you something exactly how you want it does not help to get students ready for the real world. College is available to give you the resources to help you if you fall or get hurt because, newsflash, you’re on your own. When you’re in the real world, it’s time to learn how to handle life.
However, universities are being forced by students to change everything that offends them. Schools such as Columbia University have had to add trigger warnings to assignments to make sure students don’t have an emotional trauma by a reading. Students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are now calling for a new mascot because the Minutemen were once a group of people that supported slavery.
Even the University of San Diego is officially changing the name of Greek Life to Fraternity and Sorority Life because of its fear of offending Greeks.
Senior Telemahos Korbakes, who is 100 percent Greek, explained that this contested name change is unnecessary.
“Personally, being 100 percent [Greek], I don’t understand,” Korbakes said. “Fraternities and sororities were created on the principles of Greek philosophy, and we still use their letters. If anything, I’m happy that students are forced to learn some Greek background to understand the letters they wear on their shirt.”
However, despite some USD groups changing, others choose not to. From students wearing sombreros at school events to my friends and me wearing a pilgrim costume for Halloween, students typically get yelled at or take flak for costumes they wear. Yet USD still holds Mexican themed events including hanging sombreros up at USD tailgates. All of this is over what we wear and how we speak.
Universities, including our own here at the University of San Diego, fear backlash from different communities. USD goes to great lengths to make sure that every musical act or speaker fits the core values of the university. Higher education can’t seem to win.
Yale is being criticized for its openness to allow freedom of expression by its own students, but USD has been pressured to allow looser censorship. These aren’t the only universities concerned with the issue and their students aren’t the only ones affected.
Entertainers have also felt the pressure from universities. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld explained that he stays away from performing at college campuses.
“I hear a lot of people tell me don’t go near colleges, they are so PC [politically correct],” Seinfeld said. “They just want to use these words, ‘that’s racist,’ ‘that’s sexist,’ ‘that’s prejudice,’ [and] they don’t even know what they’re talking about.”
Whatever needs to be done may not be simple or easy. Universities need to stop censorship and encourage open and fair dialogue between parties. This will allow students to grow and learn, while also having the professors and facilitators there to help explain both sides of the argument.
If you don’t allow this to happen, you will make yourself a prisoner of your own action. In doing so, you might deny yourself the opportunity to learn and understand why being offended is not something to be scared of.