Smug Rich Kids

Friday, October 13th, 2006 11:54 am by Neal

Matt Mireles, a junior at Columbia University, has this article in today’s New York Post, “Smug Rich Kids — White Guilt vs. Free Speech”. It’s worth a read and funny as well.

COLUMBIA University is a place for rich kids – rich kids who agree with each other.

Sure, some come from well-to-do Hispanic families – we’re not all poor Mexicans, you know – and a few are from the black upper middle-class. But at Columbia, being “from Brooklyn” means you grew up in Park Slope. This is why Columbia has problems with free speech.

Call it white guilt, though in a mutated form. There are Latinos at Columbia, but most of them are like me – our Hispanic heritage is invisible to the naked eye. Very few are brown, and even fewer come from poor or even working-class households.

And the fact is that most Columbia students are afraid of poor people, or at least people who look poor. They see going above 125th Street as “being adventurous.”

The insularity and homogeneity of Columbia’s campus makes students feel guilty when they come across New Yorkers who are visibly less privileged. In the eyes of my fellow students, poor and working-class minorities are an exotic, vulnerable species that needs the protection and support of upstanding Ivy Leaguers like ourselves . . . Except when we actually have to be around them, in which case we complain about their bad manners and uncouth behavior. (“Can you believe that greasy-looking Dominican guy just whistled at me like that? How disgusting!”)

Jim Gilchrist and the Minutemen hit a nerve at Columbia, because they say the things that so many students here at Coumbia feel so guilty about thinking.

It’s easy to support poor immigrants when they’re a theoretical entity and you never actually have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. The Minuteman melee is a case in point.

The insularity of the campus, much as with the upper-crust suburbs from which Columbia students largely hail, leaves a lot of young people feeling empty about their lives. It all feels so structured and sanitized and safe. Where’s the gritty reality we read about in all these books? Where’s the anti-war protests and civil-rights struggle of our parents’ generation? Where’s the grand struggle for a just cause?

Of course, having never seen much grit for most of their lives, Columbia students tend to balk at the first sight of too much reality – like going above 125th Street. On the other hand, joining a protest group is easy and safe but still “edgy” and cool. It lets students feel good about themselves and their convictions and their fight against “the man” without ever having to leave the shelter and structure of campus.

“No person is illegal,” read the trilingual (English, Spanish, and Arabic) banner unfurled in protest as students stormed the Minutemen’s stage last week. I wonder how many of those kids know a single illegal immigrant? (Well, maybe they know the pizza-delivery guy . . .)

It is a sad comment on the state of the American mind, but Jim Gilchrist is an important and influential voice in contemporary American politics and he deserves to be heard by the rich, guilty white kids of Columbia University.


Scandal at Columbia University
No Concept of Free Speech

Comments are closed.