On the Fence: CMU politics and paint
On the morning of Oct. 11, the Carnegie Mellon community arrived on campus to a new coat of paint on the Fence, a normal sighting. However, this specific design, painted by the Carnegie Mellon College Republicans, has caused many students to speak amongst peers on social media to express their anger and discomfort with the messaging. However, the backlash against the messaging on the Fence is more than just disagreement amongst differing political alignments. Instead, it is a gross display of privilege, in which the members of Carnegie Mellon College Republicans are speaking over the voices of marginalized groups on campus and minimizing their concerns.
The phrasing on the front of the Fence, “Republican is not a bad word,” is a direct play from a phrase that was painted on the Fence the week before, saying “Abortion is not a bad word, ” painted by various members of the community in response to anti-abortion protestors that came to campus. In addition to painting the Fence, these community members also raised over $300 for the Western PA Fund for Choice. For the Carnegie Mellon College Republicans to see this display of solidarity against the systemic oppression of women, and then conflate that serious issue to a perceived feeling of ostracization for one’s political affiliation, caused a lot of hurt amongst community members directly affected by anti-abortion rhetoric and our allies.
In addition, Oct. 11 marks two important holidays for marginalized communities: Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which is meant to honor Native people in the United States and acknowledge the harm inflicted upon them throughout the history of this country, and National Coming Out Day, a day to empower those in the LGBTQ+ community to live as their authentic selves. Both of these communities still face significant violence in the United States. The National Institute of Justice has found that Native women are 1.2 times more likely to experience violence in their lifetime than their white counterparts. A study done by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School reported that LGBTQ+ people are four times more likely to experience violent victimization than people not in the LGBTQ+ community. Whether intentional or not, having “Republican is not a bad word” painted on the Fence on these holidays further perpetuates the cycle of violence against these different marginalized groups by minimizing voices on a day that was meant to amplify them. It created an environment in which people at Carnegie Mellon felt uncomfortable.
Throughout history, rhetoric and policies pushed by members of the Republican party have had deep, long-lasting negative impacts on so many different communities. This month, Republican lawmakers in Texas passed a law that would outlaw almost all abortions, violating the autonomy of all women living in the state to make decisions about their own bodies. When this is the latest addition to a legacy that continues to harm so many, why would we not see Republican as a bad word?