Why you should think twice before cracking an egg on a racist

Sean Lundergan | Staff Writer

There’s something beautifully simplistic about expressing your disapproval via food. It’s probably why the rotten tomato has such staying power in the collective imagination. It’s also why Australian teenager Will Connolly went viral for egging noted racist and Australian senator Fraser Anning in response to Anning’s comments that blamed Muslims for the anti-Muslim massacre that took place in Christchurch, New Zealand last week.

I think it’s important to consider in a little detail the ethics of cracking an egg on the head of a virulent bigot. While it’s a simple, concise and attention-grabbing act of protest, there are reasons to hesitate before bombarding a racist with the product of an avian ovary.

There’s an ongoing debate in politics about civility, and about whether it’s wrong to act uncivilly toward those who promote abhorrent ideologies about marginalized groups. The conversation about confronting white nationalists has, for obvious reasons, come up a lot in the last few years. Two years ago, Student Life ran a column (which got a fair amount of blowback) about how maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world to punch influential Nazi Richard Spencer. I won’t fully retread that ground, but it remains true that we need to treat with utter disdain the people—from politicians to popular television hosts to small-time racist organizers—who promote the idea that Muslims, or black people, or Jews, etc., are inferior to white Christians. Racism and xenophobia are not reasonable political positions. I’m happy to debate antitrust policy; I’m not happy to debate my non-white-Christian classmates’ humanity.

If a public figure’s words have influenced or retroactively justified killings committed by white supremacists, it’s the least you could do for your fellow humans to strongly rebuke him—even better to do it in a way that’s both frank and objectively funny. Refusing to tolerate hate is our responsibility as opponents of Islamophobia, antisemitism and all the other bigotry professed by white nationalists.

The Christchurch shooter was deeply involved in the world of fascist memers, but his ideology isn’t restricted to 8chan; much more mainstream figures in powerful positions adapt the same ideas for mass audiences. Fraser Anning thrives on stoking hatred of Muslims. People like Rep. Matt Gaetz and President Donald Trump routinely promote conspiracy theories and dehumanizing rhetoric about Muslims and Jews. There are mainstream-adjacent organizations that exist primarily to launder white nationalism, like Turning Point USA, which markets these ideas—including the idea that students should “expose Islam” and Muslims on campuses—to young people. It’s irresponsible to treat these bigots as reasonable people who disagree with you. But I still can’t endorse egging them.

No matter how horrific the atrocity they’re justifying or inciting, there are unavoidable moral drawbacks to hitting a white nationalist with an egg. Eggs are among the least ethically produced food products on the market: Even most cage-free and free-range hens live under less-than-ideal conditions. And egg supply is very responsive to changes in demand; one estimate has farms producing 0.91 fewer eggs for every one fewer egg bought. So unless you personally know the hen from whom the egg came, and can confirm she’s treated humanely, egging your white supremacist of choice might not be the best bet. Maybe try a locally-grown fruit—perhaps the tried-and-true tomato. Be uncivil with racists, not with chickens.

The internet was right to make Connolly a viral sensation, and he hasn’t been milkshake ducked, but we should remember that no hero is perfect. When you’re out there nobly creating a nuisance for the fascists in your midst, it’s still worth trying to be an ethical consumer.

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