OPINION: A house on fire

By Luke Quillen
The Carolinian


Luke Quillen

When it was initially reported that Clemson University Assistant Professor of Human-Centered Computing, Bart Knijnenburg wrote on social media that “All Trump supporters, nay, all Republicans, are racist scum”, I didn’t think these ridiculous allegations deserved a cogent response from anyone.

But due to the level of publicity they have since received, as well as the relative lack of condemnation of them from other members of the self-identified political left, I am now convinced they do. Yet, it is still difficult for me to rationalize penning an article solely dedicated to these statements in the context of another vastly more important recent political event. So, at the risk of creating some sort of false moral equivalency, I will attempt to address the couple simultaneously.

In response to the professor, I shouldn’t have to write this, but someone disagreeing with you on which policies are the best for achieving our county’s shared goals does not inherently correlate with them also believing in the contextual supremacy of the white race. Saying as much is the height of intellectual sloth and shows a fundamental lack of understanding of American politics and its electorate.

And it is exhausting, professor, as an actual active member of my local Democratic party, having to explain away comments like yours to members of the public who might otherwise agree with the Democratic party platform and be encouraged to vote with us and our candidates, but who do not because they often feel unwelcome and alienated by ludicrous statements from fringe attention whores like yourself. The blatant, generalized contempt towards those with whom you disagree politically is exactly the kind of prejudice we fight against as real members of the Democratic Party and real liberals.

That being said, it has been curious to me the veracity with which Republican officials have publicized and decried your statements while simultaneously staying mum about a potentially constitutional crisis-inducing trounce of the rule of law by the actual President of the United States.

For example, Spartanburg GOP chair Josh Kimbrell wrote a letter in response to the assistant professor’s statements that was widely covered by the local media, and Republican State Senator Katrina Shealy responded by giving Clemson an ultimatum through media outlet FITSNews, threatening, “the state of South Carolina needs to cut off funding for Clemson until they get rid of him”. Yet no leading members of the GOP have publicly denounced Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

I realize Arpaio has been a good friend to Republican officials in South Carolina. Such a good friend that even after it was reported that he “ordered the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to dress up 220 unconvicted Latino immigrants in prison stripes and forced them to march through the streets from the county jail to a ‘Tent City’ detainment camp,” Representative Jeff Duncan still invited him to be his keynote guest speaker at the “Faith and Freedom Barbecue” last year.

But sometimes even friends break the law and consistently violate civil and human rights, and continue to do so even after cease and desist court orders are issued. And when the President of the United States decides to derail precedent and procedural normalcy to pardon your friend, it is your duty as an American in a position of leadership to call that out.

Republicans must return to the kind of party that can elect officials who have at least some semblance of moral authority in regards to these types of issues – a party whose leaders would, at the very least, challenge atrocities from the president rather than become preoccupied by inconsequential Facebook drama.

A year ago I understood that a lot of conservatives thought Trump had hijacked the political party most had always aligned themselves with and had turned it into something they didn’t recognize. But they voted for him anyways, and right now it feels like that same woman conservatives decided to marry drunk in Vegas just set their house on fire, and they’re too worried about their neighbor in Clemson gossiping about their drinking problem to notice.


Luke Quillen is a writer for The Carolinian. Email Luke with questions and comments.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Carolinian, the University of South Carolina Upstate, or any affiliated institutions.