Similar to any college student, I enjoy the pride I feel when I speak about my education. I love having the opportunity to say “I go to Clemson University,” or in just a few short months being able to say “I graduated from Clemson.” Lately, however, I find it hard to utter those four words without feeling embarrassed as a direct result of Clemson’s hypocrisy in relation to racism. Evident through the university's approach, or lack thereof, to Turning Point USA Clemson’s Tomi Lahren “Back the Blue” event, Clemson seems to only acknowledge and support their minority and POC students when there's a profit to be made.
Lahren will be speaking at Clemson University on April 8, 2021. Invited by the Clemson chapter of Turning Point USA, a conservative college organization, she will accompany two other (and lesser known) speakers to discuss the police force in an event titled “Back the Blue.” After this announcement, various Clemson students were concerned about her presence on campus. Concerns over Lahren’s disrespectful and outright hateful statements towards multiple groups of people, many represented in the Clemson student body, grew and continue to grow with each passing day. This isn’t about the main topic of the event, support for the police force. People are allowed to have their own opinion about the police, no one is denying that. This is about bringing a known racist, anti-masker and xenophobe to a college campus during a pandemic. Instead of acknowledging that most of Lahren’s views and statements directly attack those that are not white, straight and 100% American, Clemson University approved a location change- Tomi Lahren will now be speaking on campus at Littlejohn Coliseum. For a school that claims to care about people of color, LGBTQ+ students and international students, providing a woman who actively dislikes all of those people a space to speak on campus is incredibly hypocritical.
In June of 2020, a few members of Clemson's football team organized and led a peaceful and mask filled Black Lives Matter protest throughout downtown and part of Clemson's campus. Clemson University seemed to support this movement as they posted about racism and how it did not belong in our school. Furthermore, they (Clemson higher administration) approved the creation and sale of a black shirt with the word “Unity” across the front and “All in, All together” on the back. At Clemsontigers.com, the official Clemson Athletics (and thus an official Clemson University) site, there is an entire page dedicated to the “Unity” shirt. The website includes the statement “We chose the word unity because it is a word that anyone can connect with. For us, we believe it is the umbrella for all change; if we do not come together (or unify), nothing will get done.” Allowing someone who has actively participated in hateful speech towards Black people, Asian people and the LGBTQ+ community seems like the exact opposite of “unity.” Where is this idea of unity now? When students feel uncomfortable sharing their campus with someone who represents the exact opposite of unity? It seems like “unity” only exists when Clemson can watch the money from the shirts pile up.
Clemson gained traction from this event and the resulting merchandise. For only $19.99, you can receive a unity shirt and the misleading feeling that Clemson cares about their minority students. What a deal.
Now, Clemson students are trying to tell their home, their campus and their leaders, that they feel unsafe and, quite frankly, disrespected. Clemson is not listening. They preach a song of equality, diversity and inclusion, but when the time comes to support those notes, they somehow forget how to sing. Clemson’s hypocrisy sweeps through the grass on our (former plantation) campus, spills from the windows of our numerous buildings named after racists and intoxicates the students that believed their university would continue to denounce racism and hate speech. There’s something in these hills alright.
There are multiple statements to be made about Lahren and how her actions have, and will continue to, negatively impact Clemson University. Not only did she spend time making fun of Clemson students who voiced their opinions, which is odd considering she values free speech (well, only when it is in her favor it seems), on national television (thus making an embarrassment of the Clemson name), but she depends on hate-based rhetoric. Outside of her racism and xenophobia, her statements following school shootings are very concerning and should not be given a platform, nor should someone so unable to care for other people (even during a tragedy like school shootings) be given the opportunity to speak at a school. In response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, which killed 17, Tomi refused to lay low for one day. In a time of national upset, she stated “Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn't about a gun it's about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting” on Twitter. Several survivors of the shooting were unable to believe her text. She continued to say “But maybe, just maybe, more Jesus, more God, more prayer and more compassion is what we are missing,” as survivors and families of those killed in school shootings listened and replied in disbelief. After a march organized for that same shooting, Lahren made yet another tone deaf comment. She said “Simply being anti-NRA is not a solution. March FOR something, not just against everything.” She then continued to criticize the survivors of the shooting by saying “Disarming the citizenry is the first step to oppression and tyranny,” and “Kids, I suggest you crack open the history book and learn this pattern. #marchforourlives.” I don’t think I have to explain why this is bad and why a university should not have this person speak on campus.
Clemson claims that they do not support racism and that their core values of integrity, honesty and respect are to be practiced across campus- yet they allow a racist who has shown time and time again that she is unable to respect people of color and other cultures onto our campus. Please explain how Lahren, who referred to COVID-19 as the China Virus, stated that the Black Lives Matter movement was a terrorist organization, spoke poorly of mental health issues and transgender people and made/continues to make terrible statements (a quick run through her Twitter can confirm this) represents any of Clemsons core values. If Clemson cared about the environmental impact of climate change, you think they would be concerned about the fact that a prominent speaker on their campus continuously tweets about climate change in a negative light (meaning, she does not believe in it). If Clemson cares about mental health care, you think they would be concerned about the fact that Lahren actively makes fun of mental health issues. A search through her Twitter, Instagram or Facebook can confirm these beliefs.
For example, her past statements disrespect the military and make light of animal abuse. Some statements include:
-”Meet the new KKK, they call themselves ‘Black Lives Matter’ but make no mistake their goals are far from equality. #Dallas #bluelivesmatter.” (Twitter Aug. 7, 2016).
-“Kamala did you fight for ideals or did you sleep your way to the top with Willie Brown?” (Twitter Jul. 31, 2019).
-“We can’t put up another RINO like McCain and Flake” (Lahren dragged McCain at a campaign event just a few hours after he announced that he was ending his treatment for his ongoing battle with brain cancer).
-“As I watch millennial men struggle to lift their bags into the overhead bin I am reminded how f'd we are if there's a draft.” (Twitter Aug. 10, 2017).
- “Climate change is religion for those too blind and emotional to realize they’re being fed socialism” (Twitter Mar. 9, 2021).
- “...Liberalism is a mental disorder…” (Twitter Feb. 1, 2021).
- “All the Democrats do is wrongfully blame @realdonaldtrump for the China Virus…” (Twitter Nov. 19, 2020).
-She said that she kicked her dog multiple times to keep it quiet during an interview in March 2018, then attempted to pass it as a joke.
She also made a statement generally claimed by racists and white supremacists:” To me, true diversity is diversity of thought, not diversity of color. I don’t see color.” She doesn’t seem to understand the importance of recognizing and then accepting, appreciating and empowering diversity: a concept Clemson claims to know well.
Today, Lahren will be speaking at Littlejohn Coliseum, the same space that will not host graduation this year. Why can a racist, anti-masker spew hate and disrespect across the coliseum, but our own hardworking, tuition paying students cannot graduate in the same space? Not to mention the fact that COVID-19 testing is currently taking place at the same coliseum where a woman, who has tweeted and posted on Instagram about how anti-mask she is, will be speaking to an audience that will likely refuse to wear masks (I mean, if the leader of the event preaches anti-mask rhetoric, why would her follows want to wear a mask?). Clemson even reached out to campus residents stating that they must move their parked vehicles for the event or risk being towed; this event is obviously taking hold of Clemson. On April 7, 2021, the official Clemson University Instagram account posted a caption that thanked healthcare workers for their service and for being “part of the solution.” On April 8, 2021, Littlejohn Coliseum will be packed with an anti-mask leader and anti-mask followers, some that might have traveled from COVID-19 infested areas to attend. This event is obviously not part of the solution, Clemson. Smells like hypocrisy with a hint of a mass COVID-19 breakout for the Clemson community.
As a white woman, I recognize the privilege and safety that the color of my skin brings to me. Clemson's inability to remove this woman from our campus makes me incredibly uncomfortable, upset and embarrassed; those who do not have the same white privilege that I do have confirmed that they feel the same way, and I cannot imagine how difficult this must be for them. I have been incredibly vocal about this situation on my social media and have received support and confirmation of my opinions from several Clemson students. Potential students have also reached out to me with concerns about attending a university that so easily hosts a racist, xenophobic, climate change denier, anti-masker, anti-LGBTQ+ person. I don’t blame them. By allowing this specific person to speak on campus, Clemson is both tarnishing their repetition and confirming other suspicions. I am currently disgusted by Dear Old Clemson and it’s obvious that students, alumni, fans and potential tigers alike feel the same way.
So, how come Clemson University can profit off of diversity, inclusion and anti-racism, yet refuse to remove an active racist from speaking on campus property? Why would they host an avid anti-masker in the same coliseum they host COVID-19 testing? When will Clemson listen to the students that feel incredibly unsafe, uncomfortable and disrespected?
When will I feel proud to be a Clemson Tiger again?