What is political correctness? To some it is a key reason why the Democrats lost their way and the 2016 election. Others argue that it is a right-wing fiction, a means to rile up the base against an imaginary enemy. Political correctness hasn’t featured prominently in discussions thus far, but as the Democratic primary progresses, it is fairly likely that it will make a reappearance in pundit discussions of 2020, especially if the Democrats lose again. Within Harvard at least, political correctness is more than a phantasmic foe. It is how, despite the diverse backgrounds and ambitions of the greater Harvard community, most come to abide by a consensus view about what is acceptable, especially in public conversation.
The timeless tension in politics, that liberals think conservatives are evil, and conservatives think liberals are stupid, manifests itself once again in the current debate over divestment and the merits of protest. Between the clamors for climate justice and the complete condemnation of divestment’s goals and methods, I believe it is important to articulate a moderate position that attempts to clarify some of the underlying logic of both sides and work to bridge this disagreement.
To have a contained discussion of divestment protest, here are three assumptions that I take for granted: firstly, that global warming is a serious issue that warrants immediate, thoughtful action; secondly, that divestment is one of many means for the University to address this issue; finally, that there are better means for the University to address this issue.