Considering difference

In April I posted some audio from Al Gore’s keynote at the NASPA/ACPA National Conference. This post drew the attention of a certain blogger by the name of Radar. Radar had also attended the NASPA/ACPA conference and he had a few things to say about Al Gore. I love getting comments on my site that differ from my own opinion. This diversity of viewpoints keeps things interesting and forces me to flex my brain cells.

I do not get too many comments on this site so I always check out the URL’s of my commenters. Radar’s blog is called “On the Radar.” According to the blogger profile, Radar is “a conservative graduate student living undercover in liberal academia.” (He probably should update his bio now that he’s gainfully employed…)

Radar blogs anonymously.

I quickly read through several posts at On the Radar. I learned that Radar had attended Iowa State University during his undergraduate experience and that he attended Miami University in Ohio. Radar was in the College Student Personnel (CSP) program. The similarities of my experience and Radar’s piqued my curiosity. I had grown up in Iowa, attended one of the state universities in Iowa, and obtained a graduate degree in college student services.

Radar and I most likely took a lot of similar courses during our graduate experience including: student development theory, racial identity development, legal issues in higher education, etc.

The web detective in me decided to see if I could find out Radar’s identity. I blog using my real name and I was curious to see if I knew who he was in real life. I perused the Miami University website and found a single graduate student in the CSP program who listed Iowa State as his alma mater. I quickly Googled his name. My Google search brought up a lot of Iowa State student newspaper articles that Radar had commented on. The ideological slant on the comments matched up with the posts on On the Radar. Radar had been a student leader at Iowa State. He was the president of one of ISU’s fraternities.

The posts within On the Radar bothered me a great deal. Here was someone who was a student affairs administrator who posted blatant anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT writings. I recently interacted with him on how he could be anti-LGBT and still support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender students at his new job. I stated that it would be upsetting to know that a university administrator was anti-LGBT.

Radar:

“I certainly have the ability to hold my own opinions on social matters regardless of my position within a university. It’s interesting that you yourself surely are totally unable to support a conservative student based on your own political leanings.

Not to mention that there are more important issues in this world other than ones that concern homosexuals. You seem to be a tad obsessed.”

To which I responded:

“Professionally and personally I am able to support the dignity of everyone that I interact with via compassion and charity. It is difficult to work with folks who seem to relish in maiming the dignity of others. It requires a lot of realization that my own self-awareness and identity has grown a lot since I left a small town in rural Iowa and that I was not always philosophically and practically grounded in social justice.

My comment was truly based in gladness. It was reassuring to me that you are able to work with all students regardless of your personal views.

I am indeed obsessed with furthering social justice oriented dialogues. I love talking to heterosexual folks who have not made up their mind about homosexual relations.

Do you regularly interact with openly gay or out students in your office/department? I wonder if they knew your personal views how that would affect that interaction (if it occurs at all…)?

Cheers.”

Radar replied with the following comment:

“Compassion and charity? Are you writing a Hallmark card? Eric, you are more obsessed with finding out who I am than ever actually understanding why I believe what I believe. My personal disapproval for homosexual acts and lifestyles does not negate my ability to work with homosexual students any more than your disapproval of conservatives and conservative viewpoints negates your ability to work with conservative or Christian students, right? Your hiding behind social justice allows you to never truly research or attempt to understand that with which you disagree. Do you interact with openly conservative students, or do any such students attend Oregon State? Or maybe conservative students tend to avoid you. I wonder why – maybe because you think them to be regressive simpletons needing their eyes opened to the glorious righteousness of a “progressive” (liberal) social order.

On one final note, I appreciate your interest in my blog. However, if you don’t have anything new or unique to contribute feel free to frequent another site. Reading your posts is similar to my previous two years in a graduate program – a world filled with only social forces controlling our destinies while ignoring human agency and personal responsibility. If you do choose to respond, I ask you to ponder this (you wouldn’t have learned it in graduate school):

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

Colossians 2:8″

I’ve been pondering a particular sentence in Radar’s comment.
“My personal disapproval for homosexual acts and lifestyles does not negate my ability to work with homosexual students any more than your disapproval of conservatives and conservative viewpoints negates your ability to work with conservative or Christian students, right?”

My interpretation of Radar’s comment is that he disapproves of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. How can you work with LGBT students if you disapprove of their very existence? I’m guessing that Radar did not mention that particular view during his interview at Iowa State.

I think the difference between myself and Radar is that I approve of the existence of conservative students. I am not anti-conservative student nor am I anti-Christian. I am against the maiming of dignity. Conservative, Christian, LGBT (these identities are not mutually exclusive) are all valid identities.

Why is it that Radar, who identifies as a conservative, Christian, heterosexual, white man, seemingly needs to disparage, dismiss, and denigrate people who have different identities than he does?

The key difference between myself and Radar is that I can honestly support conservative and/or Christian students. I value their identities. I value everyone’s dignity.

I am friends with a lot of people who self-identify as conservative. They know that I value them as human beings who live, breathe, dream, have hopes, etc. They also know that I do not value or validate views which seek to maim the dignity of folks in marginalized groups.

My web statistics tell me that Radar has checked out my site while at work. This host name appeared on my web statistics during our most recent blog interaction :
129-186-45-150.alumni.iastate.edu

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be an ally during my exchanges with Radar. I feel that my biggest task as an ally is to challenge my own awareness (aka working on my own junk) and to educate people who have identities which are similar to my own. Radar is a heterosexual white man who grew up in a small town in Iowa. He’s in my sweet spot of social justice. His lived experience is at the very least geographically and educationally very similar to my own.

I have thought a lot about what I’m calling “the ethics of outing.” Outing someone from the LGBT community is a painful and sometimes dangerous thing to do. I wonder about the effects of outing someone who is blatantly homophobic on his website and yet closeted about his bigotry in his professional life.

I tried to “friend” Radar on Facebook. I poked him too. He never added me as a friend nor did he reciprocate by poking me back.

Outing Radar would probably accomplish little with regards to his self-awareness, his white privilege, his homophobia, or his Islamophobia. In fact, it would probably cause him to create another anonymous blog. This new blog would probably be full of the same discriminatory rhetoric that is on the current site. The new blog just would not have anything that would lead to discovering Radar’s true identity.

What about the students at Iowa State University? Students who are Muslim, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (Note: Muslim and LGBT are not mutually exclusive). What is my role as an ally to those students who are interacting with someone who “disapproves” of them?

I would love to read what you, my reader, thinks of this conundrum.