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"No, I Don’t Want To Hear Why You Like Charles Murray"

By Annabelle J.L. Finlayson
Annabelle J.L. Finlayson ’22, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Mathematics concentrator in Adams House.

For those who aren’t familiar with Charles Murray, first off — congratulations. Secondly, you should know that his book “The Bell Curve” claims that racial genetic differences cause lower IQ scores among Black individuals. And so you can imagine that just a week ago when I heard he was invited to campus, the thought that crossed my mind was — “Who in the world was giving Charles Murray a platform to spread his racism?” Recent events regarding Gov 50’s David Kane, remind me and you that, unfortunately, supporters of Charles Murray’s “science” are not outside our circles.

I still remember my first encounter with a Charles Murray-ist. It was 2017, a few months after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. I had heard that a quieter friend from my English class claimed that, due to evolution, white people were the superior race. The notion that a friend of mine thought that Black people were inherently inferior to white people felt like something out of the Old South.

So, one day after class I asked this friend about Charles Murray, hoping that I could shed some light on the obvious wrongness of Charles Murray’s “science” and stamp out my friend’s racist ideas. My effort was to no avail. Since then, I cannot tell you the number of conversations I’ve had along a similar vein, where a friend or family member defended something as right or true that I believed to be universally accepted as wrong and undeniably false. The feeling of disgust, despair, and dissonance with all I know to be true is far from foreign now.

In a discussion, whether it be about Charles Murray or Donald Trump or Milo Yiannopoulos, whether it be about police brutality, immigration, the #MeToo movement, or honestly any way Donald Trump handles anything (except for the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — I’m still puzzling through his surprisingly appropriate and respectful comments after her passing), any disagreement feels void of logic and compassion.

The other side is unwilling to acknowledge injustice, history, or hypocrisy. They are unable to concede simple points like “all people are created equal” or “police officers shouldn’t take innocent lives.” Just look at how Donald Trump refused to denounce white supremacy.

Having these kinds of conversations is exhausting. Having conversations where you discuss a political issue (that shouldn’t be political) where all opinions must be respected (no matter how harmful) is painful, and frankly, feels wrong. Especially when people claim that white people are the superior race, or that immigrant children “aren’t my problem,” that “all Muslims are terrorists,” or that sexual assault and rape aren’t a big deal.

I’ve heard all these statements with my own ears. It is particularly painful when I hear it from the mouths of those I love. These people, I see the goodness in them. I see them as loving and kind. They’re my family, they’re the people who sat across the aisle from me at church, they’re my friends. I watch them care for others in their day to day; they would never bully, assault, shoot, or starve anyone. And yet when it’s about the way their country is run, something shifts which I don’t understand, and this dissonance hurts too. No wonder I’m a bleeding-heart liberal. In every conversation I have with you, you stamp on my heart.

It is exhausting and heartbreaking to have to explain to someone why they should care about the well-being of other people. It’s exhausting to have to explain to someone why even my rights should be respected, and I am a cis-gender white female. Exhausting to explain why you should even care.

It is exhausting, because, when I speak with those who, maybe unknowingly, subscribe to ideas of hate, harm, and lies, it feels as if respect for others, protection of all people, alleviation of suffering within our control, and compassion are all political statements. That these things are negotiable, that I must persuade you to care about basic human rights.

Reading the news is also painful. Because what makes me lose all hope isn’t only what is happening, but that there are millions of my fellow Americans who condone it.

So, speaking to Charles Murray fans, no, I don’t want to hear why you like Charles Murray. I really don’t. I don’t want to listen to you justify injustice or dismiss destruction. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we’ve heard enough.

But, I hate to say it, I think I have to listen. Because I am guessing you — the Charles Murray-ist — felt wildly misunderstood reading this article. And maybe, you think my assessment of your values and beliefs is unfair.

Not communicating and not listening to each other isn’t what’s going to change your mind. My giving up on you isn’t what is going to heal the ideologies of this country. No, I don’t want to hear why you like Charles Murray, but I suppose I have to.

Annabelle J.L. Finlayson ’22, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Mathematics concentrator in Adams House.

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