So begins Romaissaa Benzizoune, an NYU freshman, who has an op-ed in the NYT titled, "I’m Muslim, but My Roommate Supports Trump."
I thought that was well written. It made me want to read to the end of the story. Do the friends make up?
I got to "it is no surprise that our argument proved hopeless" and "There was no reasoning with her" and "My roommate’s reasoning reflected an 'us versus them' mind-set mind-set that has defined this nation for as long as it has existed" — that's in the middle of the column — and I felt queasy.
The roommate is a specific, identifiable individual. She might as well have her name printed in The New York Times. We haven't the details of the argument or anything close to a quotation of what the very young woman may have said. We hear only the conclusion: She was immune to reason and stuck in a mind-set that is stereotypically American. I'm stunned by the unfairness toward this real person.
I read to the end of the piece. I finally encounter a quote from that unnamed, identifiable individual called "my roommate." It's a 2-word quote:
My roommate’s main defense of Mr. Trump during our argument was that he didn’t mean the “stupid things” he said.The writer rejects any comfort that might lie in the notion that Trump didn't mean all the things he said. She ends, not with any reconciliation with the roommate, but distancing herself from this person she has lived with in close contact. The writer dedicates herself to writing and to the masses of people who are not in the group with her roommate:
Now that an us-versus-them system has been voted into office, I want to write for those who feel like the latter, the “them.”And that's where she ends, convinced that it's an us-versus-them system, that her roommate — her nameless but identifiable roommate — is the other, and hot to intensify the us-versus-themness of it all.
ADDED: Whatever happened to diversity? Benzizoune had originally thought her roommate was like her, but then she was "this suddenly strange person." Benzizoun's college experience turned into something universities normally encourage: confrontation and dealing with diversity.
Benzizoune's response was to reject her roommate and to go out and find a more homogeneous group to hang around with. And then she outed the roommate to the whole world, exposing her to contempt and hostility in The New York Times.
After gaining access through the imposed intimacy of roommateship in a university that (I'm sure) promotes diversity, she betrayed this woman — who is perhaps 18 years old — and invited hatred. She did it deliberately, with fervor, and facilitated by the most powerful newspaper in America.
And it seemed justified. Why?
UPDATE: 17 days later, the NYT publishes an op-ed by the roommate, who says:
My roommate has since apologized to me, but in the meantime I have felt the glare of her friends and been heckled on campus by other students. I have been labeled “racist,” “sexist” and “xenophobic” on Facebook. I have been called a “white without a conscious,” a “misogynist,” a “bigot” and a “barbarian” online by people all over the country.She proceeds to tell us about her background, as if she needs to distance herself from the white-privilege slur with the news that she's half-Hispanic. But she's mostly conciliatory, eager to encourage us to all get along.