My Generation is Just Awful, and Colleges are Making it Worse
James Richardson

This generation is the most thoughtful, considerate, and genorous that’s come along in a while. We also happen to be one of the most uncertain, fearful, and criticized generations.

I’m not sure what ideal you’re comparing this, your, our generation to, but you obviously focus on the negative implications of what it means to take the time to consider what is being said and why it is being said and with what baggage something is said before saying it.

Have we been pacified? Yes, in certain ways. It isn’t just through the rearing we’ve received, but through systematic shifts in our culture, in what we want to be. There is a growing division between how we perceive our future.

One side sees a future where being respectful, considerate, and honest are a means to a better society. The other side sees, and I’ll say that side is strongly a majority of straight, white men, sees a future of censorship. Not true censorship, which is handed down by the government, but a silent censorship, not of their words, but of their power. Our power. I, like you, am a white male. I am straight. I won’t presume to know your sexual orientation.

Who knows who in a group might be offended if I say retarded in a derogatory way (and yes, I did notice you slipped that word into your essay, I’m guessing you hoped someone would overreact, despite you using the word inoffensively, so you might justify what you wrote), or if I call someone gay for a gesture they use, or if I call someone a thug when we all know what I really mean?

But, maybe that’s not what you’re referring to. Maybe you agree we shouldn’t use terms that have been accepted as offensive. You have every right to say what you want, despite believing you somehow don’t.

Maybe, what you’re really talking about is censorship of ideas. This has been a common complaint from, what I’ve noticed to be, mostly those who identify as conservatives. And, it is as confusing a debate as censorship.

During my college days, I graduated in 2005, we had plenty of debate. We never had censorship, but you wouldn’t know that from our campus newspaper. Every week there were editorials in the paper daring the staff to publish a letter, or to not publish a letter to prove censorship.

For every conservative speaker brought by the campus Republicans to inform the campus on conservative issues such as the right to teach intelligent design as a scientific counterpoint to the theory of evolution, or a speaker who argued that we should eliminate all social safety nets because, and I’m paraphrasing here, the poor are a societal problem that would be taken care of through survival of the fittest, and a local Catholic priest arguing that the theater department should not put on a children’s play about diverse families because it included a lesbian couple and a biracial gay couple and homosexuals are pedophiles there was debate.

Those viewpoints were heavily debated both in writing and in-person by people who felt differently, but those conservative ideas had a forum. They voiced them. And they were debated. The conservative reaction was as though we silenced those people. That we were mean and shouldn’t debate their ideas.

Looking back, I realize now what was really desired, and I think also what you desire. That is the ability as a person in a place of privileged power to say whatever they want without consequence. The point would never be articulated that way, but that is what’s desired and that is what’s truly being lost. The privileged getting to say what they want without consequence. If you disagree, I ask you to think about the consternation over the n word in certain segments of the Caucasian community. Why is there such anger over not being allowed to say a word that the black community can say without consequence?

Finally, I have to say, I partially agree with you. Although I completely back our shift toward more acceptance as the default in our society, and if that’s through verbally reprimanding those who choose to abuse their privilege then great, I disagree that those societal changes should be codified in rules. Because, that does bring us closer to actual censorship. That eliminates the debate before it occurs. That eliminates communication and eliminates growth through the challenging of ideas. I do hope the ACLU is successful in overturning these restrictions on speech. However, I have equal hope that this generation, your generation, our generation continues to challenge our inherent privilege and our mistaken invocation of negative language to prop ourselves up.

This generation isn’t the worst. This generation is attempting to identify and stamp out privilege.

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