During the Day of Absence, students and faculty of color would gather at an off-campus location to “affirm the belonging” of minority students. However, this year it was decided that white students and faculty would gather off campus to discuss race issues present at Evergreen. Professor Weinstein declared that he would not participate in the Day of Absence with the other white members of the Evergreen State community, which lead to a campus uproar claiming that he was a racist.
Weinstein is far from a racist, and his politics are actually quite liberal. He supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 and teaches at the most objectively liberal college in Washington State. But, both liberals and conservatives agree that the protests against him happened solely because of his skin color, not due to any blatantly racist actions in his past.
Both liberals and conservatives have come to his defense regarding his decision to carry on teaching his classes rather than take part in the white Day of Absence. Each side has said to have its own reasons for coming to Weinstein’s defense, but it appears as though both sides agree that the protesting students acted “boorishly,” as left-leaning professor Walter Hatch described in his Crosscut article “Evergreen story highlights how white liberals get it wrong.”
Conservative former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna disagrees with the protesting students because Weinstein was simply exercising his First Amendment right to free speech. The students’ call to have Weinstein fired was dismissed by the college administration, but McKenna argues that the administration should have done more to protect Weinstein and punish the students if necessary.
On the other side of the aisle, Professor Hatch brings up the fact that white liberals came to Weinstein’s defense for the same reason that McKenna did: Weinstein has the right to not participate in the campus-wide event, and he should not face repercussions for doing so. This phenomenon, Hatch says, is not unlike the “white victimization” that Trump voters frequently mentioned during the 2016 campaign.
Though the left and right have seemingly agreed on very little during the last several election cycles, they appear to agree that exercising one’s First Amendment rights is not a crime and should not lead to chaotic protests like those at Evergreen State. Both sides also seem to agree that attacking someone who is on the same side of an issue is counterproductive and only gives the opposite side more reason to see that side as less legitimate than their side.