In a chapel full of people sporting “Make America Great Again” and “Black Lives Matter” paraphernalia alike, the tension was palpable. On Wednesday, Ben Shapiro provided a conservative viewpoint on American politics as part of the University of Redlands’ spring political series of speakers. Presenting to a sold out audience congregated in the Memorial Chapel, Shapiro condemned the need for political correctness, endorsed a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” reality, and dispensed a critique on the federal government, which in his view has grown too large. At the same time, across the quad, a counter event, **Liberated, took place on the Beakins lawn. Johnston Center for Integrative Studies constructed this space in order to support communities of people that feel unwelcomed by Shapiro. Shapiro commenced his speech by mocking “the dance party of resistance” at **Liberated, by saying that there are no victims in America– rather, “America is the safe space.”
Peddling this idea, Shapiro launched into analyzing the claims made by different marginalized communities, saying that “women are not born at an inherent disadvantage”.
The speaker continued to challenge the notion of intersectionality: the acknowledgement that there are multivariate forms of oppression unique to classes of people. For example, the concept of intersectionality poses that experiences of white women and black women are inherently different. White women face certain oppressive forces, but such forces are not the same as those on operating on black women. An intersectional approach to understanding the dynamics of oppression provides that a body that is both black and female faces a unique set of persecution, and thus approaches to addressing the oppression of white women will never address those faced by their Black counterparts. To Shapiro, intersectional oppression is flawed in its very essence.
America, in Shapiro’s view, has been swept by a wave of self-victimization.
“The bigger the victim, the bigger virtue,” Shapiro stated, and was met with applause.
Shapiro continued that those people who feel abused by the words of others, and moreover those who experience institutional and systematic oppression are not victims.
“Words are nonviolent,” Shapiro said.
According to Shapiro, people who are harmed by the words of others are victims of their own belief.
“The only person who can victimize you in America, is you,” he continued. To Shapiro, intersectionality is another type of victimization sweeping this nation. Dissuading notions of “white privilege,” Shapiro spoke that by claiming victimhood people assumed a kind of “victim privilege.” He continued that white privilege is a “way for people to avoid responsibility”.
On this premise, Shapiro advanced an idea of a hierarchal pyramid of victimization. In its construction, Shapiro declared the uppermost capstone to be comprised of the LGBQTI community, and then followed that each descending level of the pyramid was comprised of black people, Latinos, and females. The bottom of the pyramid, according to Shapiro, is comprised of white, straight men. In a politically correct society, those holding subsequent categories in this pyramid cannot criticize those above them, according to Shapiro.
Shapiro further insinuated that no American citizens are particularly disadvantaged, promoting the oft-referenced bootstrap mentality. Defending his claim, Shapiro asserted that the criminal system does not disproportionately punish people of color (in fact, Shapiro claimed felonies to be under prosecuted in the Black community); that women are not inherently disadvantaged; and that LGBQTI members are either invalid or overly sensitive.
Shapiro rebutted claims that social constructions are responsible for the lack of social mobility. Instead he supported that the avenue to middle class ascendancy lies in 3 rules:
- Graduate high school.
- Get a job and hold it.
- Don’t have a baby out of wedlock.
Following this methodology, failing to succeed is a personal failure. Thus, the reason why data may show indications of certain oppression, the reality is an inability to follow procedure. Expanding on this point, while addressing crime policy, Shapiro presented his own policy proposal: “don’t commit crime.”
Cultural poverty, in Shapiro’s eyes, encompasses a lack of motivation to better oneself. Shapiro deemed laziness to be the culprit of poverty, and moreover, asserted the American “welfare state” as contributing to the laziness of the poor. Again, Shapiro proposed a policy solution to this issue: privatization. All welfare programs can be, in Shapiro’s view, replaced by private charity.
Shapiro’s brand of conservatism posits that by eliminating welfare programs, people will band together and create large charitable foundations to exert their goodwill in providing assistance to those in need. During the Q&A, a University of Redlands student posed a specific circumstance: She asked what happens to his three step plan if a young, poor, college-aged student were to be raped and impregnated.
Shapiro stated that the question was framed towards the saddest of possible situations, but if this girl did exist, Shapiro said he would pay out of his own pocket in support of her struggles. During a back and forth exchange between the student and Shapiro, he argued that there are a plethora of resources available to help women of this sort in order to prevent them from getting abortions. He deemed Planned Parenthood a “baby genocide organization” and said adoption would be a superior option to “killing a baby”. During the exchange, audience members interjected, loudly supporting Shapiro and criticizing the student.
Though the sanctity of discussion slightly devolved as the event reached its conclusion, all audience members rose and orderly filed through the exit and out into the street.
photos contributed by Halie West, Redlands Bulldog photographer