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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

Aaron Bros Sidebar

In Defense of Nuance: Part One

Moderatism has instilled in me an altruistic purpose in life: to reflect on issues objectively and strive to reconcile them in a way that maximally benefits others. In pursuing this purpose, I have realized true equality can only prevail in America once we recognize the depravity of DEI and seek colorblind alternatives.
In+Defense+of+Nuance%3A+Part+One
Leo Vernor

Editor’s note: This piece is one part of a two-part critique on DEI efforts within academia, political spaces, and broader society. A link to the second part of this series will be provided here upon publication.

As with many Americans, my upbringing significantly influenced my political beliefs. Unlike many Americans, I became disillusioned with partisan politics early on. I blame my parents. As ardent progressives, they often tried to foist their political (read: woke) ideals on me. In high school, they implored me to join affinity groups. In 2020, they crafted signs in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters. When Donald Trump was elected, they were vocal about their disdain for him. Truly, I had every reason to turn out as partisan as they were. The only reason I did not was because I resented how their political loyalties revolved around race. This motivated me to challenge their views, form my own beliefs, and eventually identify with moderatism.

I felt indifferent towards my race as a child because I had little reason not to. Although my hometown is less than one percent Black, I always felt like an equal there. I was never marginalized or coddled (which often feels the same). Likewise, I was never compelled to vocally align myself with my identity. In fact, I railed against efforts to establish an ethnic club and hire a DEI officer in the wake of the 2020 riots because they threatened to undermine our town’s racial harmony. Drawing attention to my race would make me feel visible or special in some way, thereby segregating me and the few other minorities from the broader community.

From elementary to high school, I repudiated DEI ideology on this basis—to the chagrin of my town’s bleeding-heart progressives. I did not accept that my worth is tied to victimhood. I felt that DEI wrongly teaches that success is a birthright, and furthermore, that DEI conditions one to cheat their way through life by imagining oppression and demanding pity. I speak from experience; I was indoctrinated with these ideals practically as soon as I left the womb. Demanding reparations. Celebrating pity parties such as Juneteenth. Leveraging my race when applying to jobs. These values and customs were taught to me at birth and typify the martyr complex I was expected to embrace. In essence, DEI taught me to advance in the world through fraud.

Gradually, I came to resent this. My immigrant grandparents instilled in me an appreciation for grit and merit. They came to this country destitute and toiled to give my father a better life. Despite enduring brazen and cruel prejudice, they succeeded. They did not do so by playing martyr. Indeed, they triumphed despite their oppression, not because of it. My mother’s grandparents, descendants of African-American slaves, did likewise. They brushed off the casual racism they endured every day to build the soapbox that many minorities now climb up on to wail about oppression.

Likewise, I have always felt that identifying with victimhood would trivialize the victories they made for equality. In my eyes, DEI expresses a perversion of the civil rights movement. My grandparents yearned to equalize the pendulum of privilege, for all races to have equal rights and opportunities. In championing DEI, I would not be striving towards a country wherein people “[are] not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” as Martin Luther King Jr. did, but the opposite: one wherein I wield power over overrepresented groups due to my race. In essence, I would not be advocating parity, but advantage—which is precisely what my grandparents fought against.

This is to say that I accepted early on that I alone am responsible for my circumstances in life. I have nothing to gain from victimhood but an aspiration to mediocrity, an expectation that success will be handed to me through quotas and pity, at the expense of my dignity and intellect and to the detriment of others. However, my experiences contradicted the narrative that Black people raised in lily-white enclaves feel isolated from or oppressed by their white peers. At some point, I understood that certain parents are wary of homogeneity; they fear that raising their children in predominantly white environments will engender racist sentiments in them. I had read of parents who decided to raise their children in neighboring towns for this reason. However, my own experiences taught me otherwise.

And yet, my parents constantly tried to foist this victimhood on me. Despite my feeling like an equal growing up, they believed that my race handicapped me. To their credit, their concerns were not unfounded. I learned what “n****r” meant when it was sprawled across a hallway in middle school. One year, students in blackface ran around my school goading others into yelling the slur. In writing this, I am not attempting to elicit sympathy. The fact is that I never felt marginalized by such incidents. I suppose one could argue I was “handicapped” in that I was more vulnerable to racism than my white peers. However, my point is that I did not feel this way. I was never personally discriminated against, nor did I hear about other underrepresented minorities (URMs) being harassed due to their race. Likewise, when incidents of racism did occur, I was not offended or alienated; in fact, I found them so outlandish that they were amusing.

Indeed, my most haunting memories from childhood had nothing to do with the racism I witnessed, but with the virtue signaling and moral panic that these racist incidents provoked. Often, this manifested as assemblies, heated school board meetings, and loudspeaker lectures peddling DEI. The town’s DEI brigade would overcompensate for racism by making baseless generalizations about the community.

When racism occurred, it felt like there was no middle ground; one either supported DEI or they were considered racist. I realized then the ability of partisan panic to dictate people’s views. I resented this. I resented that the truth—that racism existed, but it was not endemic in our school district as was claimed—was suppressed. I resented that I was expected to feign victimhood and that people lent credence to partisan accusations out of fear.

As I grew older, my resentment of how partisanship perverted reality led me to identify with moderatism. I wanted to interpret reality for myself, to form my own opinions about the world and my place in it rather than regurgitating those fed to me. Partisanship traps me; no matter which ideology I identify with, I am forced to reckon with inadequacy. To participate in partisan politics as a URM is to cede your dignity to a game of tug of war: at one extreme are people who like you to a fault, and at the other are those who like you very little. I tired of this game once I realized I do not have to externalize my worth.

Moderatism gives me the agency to break from this dichotomy, power to deduce things by assessing facts for myself rather than blindly siding with rigid partisan ideals. I want my own say. I have a voice and prerogative to reflect on policies that directly concern me. I am not interested in seeking refuge in one ideology and pretending it does not dehumanize me. This freedom from ideological constraints I have discovered is very useful. Because I am beholden to no ideology, I maintain broader perspectives on issues than many partisans do. I am not afraid of challenging DEI and being branded a “racist” or upsetting Republicans and being cast as “woke.” In that way, moderatism has instilled in me an altruistic purpose: to reflect on issues objectively and strive to reconcile them in a way that maximally benefits others. In pursuing this purpose, I have realized true equality can only prevail in America once we recognize the depravity of DEI and seek colorblind alternatives.

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About the Contributors
Gregory Caesar, Head Podcasts Editor, Senior Copy Editor, Associate Developer
Gregory is a third-year in the College from New York, studying computer science and data science. Since becoming head editor for Podcasts in 2022, he has led the branch through several milestones, including The Maroon Weekly's 100th episode, a crossover podcast with Northwestern, and live recordings at The Study Hotel at the University of Chicago. This year, he is committed to reimagining the section’s utility within The Maroon by diversifying its content, collaborating with other sections, and expanding its reach to better amplify campus and community voices. Outside of Podcasts, he has served as a senior copy editor since spring 2021 and is involved with data visualization tasks. He is an avid aviation enthusiast and Regenstein denizen.
Leo Vernor, Grey City Reporter
Leo Vernor is a second-year student majoring in Cognitive Science with a minor in Creative Writing. He was born in Texas, raised in Washington, and raised again, in Texas. He joined Grey City because he likes to write about the nooks, and especially the crannies, of the world around him. Beyond The Maroon, he is a member of a collection of eclectics called the Folklore Society. You can also listen to him beam sound into the void every week on the student-run radio station, WHPK. Some of his writing can be found in the Austin Chronicle, the rest is either here, or yet to come.
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  • J

    Janis Froehlig / Apr 2, 2024 at 6:29 pm

    It’s my understanding that DEI implementations are not built on subjective experience, but on data gathered form a wide variety of sources to adress numeric discrepancies. One stark example (forgive me for forgetting my source, but it’s searchable) is that black women are thirteen times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. I have also read several sources, with various results, that point to people of color receiving pain medications both much less frequently and in lower volumes than their white counterparts.

    I cite the medical examples to highlight the moments in life in which no one is the master of their destiny. These moments can be cumulative, and can also have a cascading effect, altering life, generational and community narratives substantially, regardless of subjective sensitivities. It’s true that sensitivities themselves are subject to influence, which makes the untangling of statistical racial inequalities effectively impossible. Our response, then, is to experiment with corrective action and test for effectiveness, working to ensure the science employed is as solid as possible. DEI is just science working to resolve accounted issues.

    The US Air Force Academy has been employing similar efforts for about 23 years, now. I would encourage the writer to look into these efforts, the results, and perhaps form more solid hypotheses to test. (Perhaps to start: reuters[dot]com[slash]investigates[slash]special-report[slash]usa-race-academy)

    Reply
  • J

    JJ / Mar 28, 2024 at 11:09 pm

    I, me, or my in every single paragraph.

    Biographical reflection, not issue analysis.

    Reply
    • G

      Gregory Caesar / Mar 29, 2024 at 12:08 am

      Yes.

      Reply
    • G

      Gregory Caesar / Mar 29, 2024 at 12:22 am

      But in all seriousness my piece was originally 9,000 words and made serious, fact-based analyses of DEI efforts. The Maroon’s editors have whittled it down to its current form (i.e., this and another piece to follow). This part is essentially an excerpt from a more personal segment of the original piece, but I felt it was compelling enough to publish. The second piece should be more “issue analysis.”

      I also take issue with the idea that using certain pronouns renders a piece meaningless. Thank you for your contribution (or, at least, your attempt at one).

      Reply
      • J

        JJ / Mar 29, 2024 at 10:51 am

        Thanks for your reply.

        I didn’t say meaningless. I didn’t say meaningful either. I pointed out that the essay as published is all about the author. Very common in young writers, sadly. Some small proportion grow out of the habit.

        Reply