Within the fortified liberal bastion that is Ann Arbor, there exists an environment uniquely designed for the progressive students who populate campus. Here, the most liberal of beliefs can be resounded within Ann Arbor’s echo chamber that makes this town in the midwestern United States sound more like a socialist paradise in Scandinavia.
The University of Michigan’s liberal student body is readily known worldwide to the point that our left-leaning bias is often capitalized on by the conservative media and punditry as a ridiculous example of a public university run amok, both stifling freedom of speech and coddling its weak students.
Yet a large majority of students here feel pride in these common progressive values, and as President Mark Schlissel said following the electoral victory of Donald Trump, “Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday.”
And those results of the 2016 election served to further entrench and solidify such progressive beliefs. The liberal values discovered, discussed and debated among students within the lecture halls, study lounges and dormitories of the University became essential to promote now more than ever.
As someone who considers himself a member of this educated and informed liberal class of University students, I, like many others, value and attempt to promote progressive beliefs that are essential to move U.S. society towards becoming more inclusive, equal and advantageous.
Yet within this demographic of openly progressive students there exists a large majority of financially well-off, primarily white students who live within a reality in which economic, racial and social strife are never truly experienced. There exists a large segment of smug liberals who bathe in their proclaimed self-righteousness, dedicating the bare minimum of activism toward the political values they will so readily scream about through Twitter on a brand-new iPhone 7.
The University ranks last in economic mobility and diversity among public universities, touting a median family income of $154,000 (almost $100,000 more than the national median) and an ethnic makeup that is predominantly white. Surrounded by students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, this white wealthy liberal culture often feels free to dominate the political environment of the University.
Many students rail against Betsy DeVos and her policies advocating for school choice, yet hail from expensive private or well-funded public schools. Many students so easily paint Americans who support the president’s travel ban as racist and xenophobic, but do not come even remotely close to providing actual donations to those refugees in need. And how casually many students can throw around terms such as inner-city, discrimination and Islamophobia without realizing the true harsh reality of life on the receiving end of those terms.
This current reality in which well-educated, financially sound, predominantly white liberal students so enthusiastically hijack the political discussion concerning race, economics, foreign policy and social issues is just another example of the privilege bestowed and granted upon them for the simple reason that they were born to a certain family at the right time.
And I know all of this for I am a part of this pathetic subgroup of pseudo-intellectuals who scream about raising taxes and the minimum wage, yet are completely financially dependent on their parents. I am part of these modern-day patriots who heroically defend progressive ideals during work hours — yet go home to our comfortable lives in paid-off apartments, with Moleskine notebooks, personalized Apple electronics, $5 lattes and Ralph Lauren sneakers.
Buffered by our socioeconomic statuses, we are nearly unaffected by the real ramifications of poverty, racism and our great fear of the Trump administration. We dive back into the numerous left-leaning newspapers, podcasts and books that have a profound effect of flattering our intelligence and lead us to believe that we’re actually doing something to help. We bounce the same outrage off one another, amplifying our unaffected white voices to an authoritative tone that we should fix this, then proceed to simply go on with our comfortable lives, drinking at the bar, seeing a band and smiling ever so smugly that knowing we’re on the right side of history.
Guilty of our abstract indifference to the reality playing out in front of us, we must recognize our lack of self-awareness, realizing that there is a serious necessity for some greater form of participation. Benefiting from comfortable family and socioeconomic positions, it is not nearly enough to complain and inform ourselves over the issues we so emotionally care about. The smug level of liberalism we share needs to be infused with actual activism and empathy.
“Tweets are not The Resistance.” Millions across this country are motivated now more than ever to uphold the values we so readily strap ourselves to. Join several activist sites such as ResistanceRecess.com, which lists congressional town halls to hold your congressional leaders accountable, or Flippable.org, which informs subscribers of essential down-ballot races that have the possibility of changing parties. There are also multiple political organization on campus such as Progressives University of Michigan or the University’s chapter of College Democrats, who often host events and are simple to join.
These smug emotions that are common with white wealthy liberals need to be shed. There is no way to build a resistance or a future country for that matter around an expensive education and a subscription to The New York Times.
Actions speak louder than words, even the multisyllabic ones we use to describe the fly-over states.
Michael Mordarski can be reached at email@example.com.