An Incomplete Guide to Responding to YAF

Olivia Daniels and Bridget Lavender –  A provocative video released last Tuesday on the Davidson Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) Facebook page analogized GPA points and income to make an argument against wealth redistribution. We aren’t here to argue about the specifics of this video, although both of us personally find it ridiculous and infuriating. Instead, we are interested in the large reaction it prompted on our campus.

Many Davidson students, including ourselves, have engaged in conversations about the video, both formally through classroom conversations and the Teach-In and informally through Facebook debates and casual conversations. The conversations we have had regarding this video have been productive and insightful, not to mention therapeutic. YAF has brought many issues to the forefront of conversation throughout their time on campus, including income inequality, wealth redistribution, access to opportunity and resources, and women’s reproductive rights. We’re happy to have these conversations. Our fear, however, is that these conversations happen solely as reactions, provoked by YAF.

Don’t get us wrong: there is nothing wrong with reacting to the video. Most of us did, as evidenced by the professors discussing it in class and the hundreds of Facebook posts and comments on the subject. Reaction is inevitable and clearly justified, but if we only react, we concede to the provocation. If we only have these conversations whenever YAF and similar groups rile students up, then they will continue to win,–whether it be through framing the ideological battles on this campus, putting Donald Trump in the White House, or somewhere in between.

The massive amount of energy generated through reactions has the potential to make concrete change if students are motivated outside of online debates and conversations. We encourage you all, and continue to challenge ourselves, to take simple steps towards positive change on this campus or at a larger level to successfully resist the implications of divisive, hateful rhetoric. Following are some suggestions, but these are in no way a prescriptive order of how to react or respond to hateful rhetoric and policies, especially ones targeting individuals personally based on any of their identities. Know and take care of yourself–understand that your method of resistance will not look like ours or anyone else’s.

For the remainder of the semester, we encourage you to engage with your professors on these issues; learn from their informed opinions and challenge them when necessary. Talk to your classmates, and learn their stories. Remember, however, that many stories go untold, and your peers are under no obligation to tell their own. Thus, we urge you to think about these issues  regardless of personal connections. Attend the Teach-Ins, bipartisan discussions, informative lectures, and speaker panels.

Many campus organizations seek to channel student enthusiasm for change into action-oriented initiatives that can have an impact on people, ideas, or movements beyond ourselves. Reach out to groups like Davidson Refugee Support, Planned Parenthood Generation Action, 1972, or the Environmental Action Coalition. They do not just welcome your help and efforts; they need them. Signing up for these email lists and contacting campus leaders are fast and effective ways to learn more about the issues going on around us and how you can address them as part of a larger team for change. Being aware of events, petitions, or discussions on campus allows you not only to educate yourself but also those around you.

In Davidson and beyond, volunteering for local political campaigns (for either party) is an effective way to be engaged with issues facing your geographic area and to be a part of concrete initiatives to address them and inform voters of their importance. Working to publicize the issues and a candidate can be both personally rewarding and a key part of civic engagement in your community. Registering those around you to vote and educating them on policies and platforms makes you part of a larger, action-oriented movement.

Our nation’s founding principles ensure a relationship between voters and their democratically- elected representatives. Use this connection. Call your state and national senators and representatives. Call your governor. Call your city’s board of commissioners. Write letters and emails. Hold these officials accountable to your needs as a voter. If you are registered to vote in Davidson (you can check online!), our state senator is Jeff Tarte (919-715-3050) and our state representative is John Bradford (919-753-5838). As North Carolinians, our senators are Richard Burr (202-224-3154) and Thom Tillis (202-224-6342), and our congressional representative is Alma Adams (202-225-1510). Whether or not you cast your vote for any of these elected officials, they represent your interests as a constituent; make your voices heard.

Our reactions are valid and necessary. Reacting without ever acting, however, concedes victory to the other side. Engage in discussion and learn about the issues because they are important, not only because of an inflammatory post. To make a difference and respond with conviction, take this knowledge and spread it through activity on Davidson’s campus and beyond. We have hardly perfected this method, but we realize that the impact of our resistance will be measured by both discussion and deeds.

Olivia Daniels ’19 is a History and English double-major from Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Contact her at oldaniels@davidson. edu.

Bridget Lavender ’18 is a Gender & Sexuality Studies major and Communications minor from Greensboro, North Carolina. Contact her at brlavender@davidson.edu.