“I’m a conservative, too...but don’t tell anyone.”by Natalie Wyman Family Foundation Intern, Lobbyist UVA, 2015
We all know that college campuses aren’t exactly friendly to those who hold conservative political beliefs. As academia has embraced the progressive liberal agenda, students who are socially conservative have felt less and less welcome on college campuses. We’ve all heard the horror stories about professors failing students for refusing to back down from their beliefs, but the problem runs deeper than that. The conservative shaming on college campuses has trickled down from the academia and into the brains of the students themselves.
What do I mean by this? Basically, if you are a college student who holds politically conservative beliefs, and in particular social conservative beliefs, you are considered less intelligent than your fellow peers, by your fellow peers. There aren’t any professors involved in this one: this is all students shaming other students.
Surprisingly, being a Christian isn’t the main issue on college campuses, at least in my experience. There is a decent amount of tolerance for all religions, Christianity included. However, when a Christian translates their religious beliefs into political beliefs all tolerance stops.
I can personally attest to this. As a very recent graduate of the University of Virginia, I experienced this shame throughout my years as an undergraduate student. While I was a member of a Christian fellowship on campus, I was also very involved in the music scene at UVA as a member of an a cappella group and a musical theater organization so I was constantly surrounded by people who held very liberal political beliefs. No one ever said anything when I mentioned going to Bible study, but when I brought up politics all bets were off.
I remember one day I was with some friends on campus and a guy came up to us handing out Obama 2012 stickers. My friends watched in shock and disgust as I refused the sticker. While they didn’t say anything, their expressions said it all: they were embarrassed by their conservative friend who refused to support the supposedly ideal presidential candidate.
Another time, I had a pro-life article lying casually on my desk in my room. One of my friends was over at my apartment, and when she saw the article she rolled her eyes and said, “Wait, are you pro-life? Come on, what’s wrong with you? I thought you were smarter than that.”
Once, I made the mistake of posting on Facebook in support of Chick-fil-A during their same-sex marriage controversy a couple years ago. All of my liberal college friends attacked me on the post for my intolerance. I never posted something political again.
Throughout my time at UVA I endured all of these casual slights silently. I never spoke up because I didn’t want my friends to think I was dumb or to make fun of me. My friendships were simply easier if I didn’t mention that I was conservative, and I just let my friends rant and rave all they wanted to about their liberal ideology without providing one single counterargument.
The day after the Chick-fil-A Facebook post, I was talking to a friend in one of my classes. He mentioned the post, and I prepared myself for yet another attack; but I was surprised when instead he said, “By the way, I’m a conservative, too...but don’t tell anyone.” He then laughed and we turned our attention back to the professor, but what he said really stuck with me:
I’m a conservative, too….but don’t tell anyone.
Why is it that young social conservatives are so ashamed to tell anyone that they don’t support abortion or same-sex marriage? Frankly, liberals are scary. They have used scare tactics to keep all opposition quiet and to make those who do dare to speak up look like an intolerant bigot. It’s an incredibly terrifying environment in which to stand up for your beliefs, particularly when all your allies are hiding and ashamed.
Liberals preach tolerance for other’s beliefs, but is that what tolerance looks like? Attacking and making fun of those whose beliefs are different from yours? Shaming someone to the point where they don’t want anyone to know what they believe? I don’t think liberals understand the definition of tolerance: “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior with which one does not necessarily agree.” Tolerance does NOT mean agreement; rather, tolerance inherently requires a differing of opinion.
That said, this problem isn’t solely on liberals. We as young conservatives are letting liberals walk all over us in order to ensure that we don’t bother anyone and that our friends still like us. College conservatives need to be more outspoken and up front about their beliefs, encouraging discussion with liberals rather allowing liberals to completely dominate any discussion.
For any high school or college students: don’t let your college experience be like mine. Learn how to intelligently defend your beliefs and then confidently do so! Don’t be the person who says, “I’m a conservative….but don’t tell anyone.”