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Liberals and Conservatives
on our campuses

April 7, 2004

    This is Perry Deane Young. Once again, we’re faced with a tiny bunch of right wing students whining that they’re not properly represented on the campuses of UNC and Duke. At Duke, a student conservative group took out an advertisement in the student newspaper to point out that the vast number of professors were liberal Democrats while only a small number of faculty members were registered Republicans. The question they should be asking is not why more teachers aren’t conservative. It should be, why don’t more conservatives choose to be teachers? There’s a telling philosophical difference at work here. Conservatives go to college to get MBAs and go into business; liberals go into education or law school. In other words, liberals want to help others; conservatives want to help themselves. For too long, the right wingers have absconded with the word “liberal” and tried to turn it into something nasty. The American Heritage dictionary says being liberal means being tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others. What in the world is wrong with that? But, over the last few years, the powerful right wing media forces have succeeded in making the word liberal sound like some sort of disease. Too often, conservatism is just a rationale for greed and selfishness. In North Carolina and the rest of the South, anybody with a spark of honesty knows that the word “conservative” has become a code word for racism. Just as the Democrats shamed our state a hundred years ago by enacting the Jim Crow laws restricting the rights of blacks, Republicans in recent years have shamed us by following such racist bigots as Jesse Helms. Ol’ Jesse could no longer campaign as a white supremacist, so he conveniently became a “conservative Republican.” What these young conservatives at Duke and UNC should be thinking about is what’s best for all Americans, not just the privileged few. They should think about what is most humane, not what is most profitable. This is Perry Deane Young.