There is a documentary going around exposing Yale students for garish elite entitlement. Support of the point of view is offered by video of interactions between students and university representatives. The film was reportedly made to show us just how over the top the entitled elite students of Yale have become. It is disguised as being about out of touch neophytes browbeating helpless officials who’s response is throttled by fear of lawsuits and perhaps worse, the fear of being politically incorrect.
The thing is, these generational complaints, the ones where comments are made about “those kids these days” are always self-serving and genuinely unoriginal. Socrates, legend would have it, once said, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” So this has been around forever. My point is, have we forgotten what we were like in college? You may not feel empathy for the students in this story but do you think our parents thought we weren’t just as messed up as these kids are made to look? We were you know. And that’s kind of the beauty of a college education.
We were young, full of energy and ecstatic about the blossoming capabilities of our expanding minds. New ways of thinking were offered not only in curriculum but in the confluence of kids from all over the country and the world in pursuit of higher education. We were no longer isolated in our homogenous hometowns where even if we were lucky enough to have come from a land of racial and ethnic diversity we were still most likely, surrounded by like minded people. College is a place to test out ideas, a place to safely find a voice and learn what works and what doesn’t. It is a training ground for the all too near real world in which they will soon be immersed.
I remember when my kids were young and we would spend weekends in bleachers and auditoriums watching hundreds of kids perform in their chosen extracurricular endeavors. I would hear people then, most likely people without kids at home, complain about the younger generation and the loss of hope for humanity. I always thought, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Those kids then, as I am sure kids now, were as driven and confused and trying to figure things out as we ever were.
But that’s not what bothers me about this video. The reaction to the video, in no small part is veiled racism. The question arises because the issue used to focus our angst at these privileged students was a racial insecurity. I do not condone the actions or comments of the students but I won’t condemn them either. This issue was wrapped in the 1st Amendment but underneath it was about race. These kids aren’t dumb. Not by any stretch of the imagination. They live in a world where nationalism and white supremacy are being normalized. I noticed the filmmaker never offered other instances of Yale students airing grievances. Certainly if the entire campus ran amok with spoiled self-centered egotists they would have been able to demonstrate other examples.
The whole thing reeked of “look at those uppity black folk who don’t know their place.” And the message is working. People are happy to condemn and ridicule the students as entitled elitists and never have to mention the ethnicity at play. The video is the perfect cover for latent racism. It was racism hidden in overgeneralization and supported by opportunistic video clips and clever editing. A better story would have been why, in 2017, are these kids living with that fear.
Yale is going to be OK. I hope the same is true for the students.
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