Rowan’s response to hatred: an exercise in facile nobility

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Students represented pride in diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity outside of the Student Center in 2020. - File Photo / Kristin Guglietti

For some reason, I decided to take a nap on Monday, and I’m so mad that I did, fuming, even. Because I missed it. I missed the protest.

Naturally, I checked all my social media to see what I missed.

However, even without being there, I could tell that there was a lot we could take away from this. Notably, how we can better these kinds of events. 

I’ve yet to meet a person who sincerely dislikes someone solely based on political beliefs. It’s important to understand that this is in the context of dissent, within reason. What we saw on Monday, clearly, was not. Among the things this small band of demonstrators said was the admittedly hilarious line “you’re a wh*re if you don’t make your father pancakes,” said directly to a friend of mine who was present.

In addition to this, they carried signs saying “obey Jesus or hellfire,” “homosexuality is a sin,” “the head of a woman is a man” and a classic, “a woman’s place is in the kitchen.” I don’t care to know what organization these people are a part of, but I do know from some friends on other campuses they’ve visited that they do this kind of thing often, and that this is the second time they’ve made themselves a little corner on our campus. 

Luckily, they were pretty much drowned out by the student body’s unwavering messages of love, peace, acceptance and kindness. I would have considered it a privilege to be among you all that day. Kudos to all involved.

On that level, Rowan handled it beautifully. On an administrative level, though, is where there is room for improvement.

I know we all love the image of the next generation fighting against hate. It’s empowering, hopeful, and, let’s be honest, newsworthy. It makes for a great photo-op, both for us and for the university. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

However, consider the fact that this goes both ways.

Hate groups like this thrive off of exposure. We’ve seen it with the Westboro Baptist Church, the Proud Boys and others. They can not survive without an audience, or something to oppose. Their ideology is always “anti” this, never “pro” that. They’re parasitic, and we’re their hosts. They know that they can make us upset, they’ve proven it twice. 

And that’s their goal. The same who got the pancake spiel thrown at her was also told, by one of the demonstrators, that they would be back next semester. I’m sure that’s what they said last time and they’ll say it next time.

The question is, can we do this forever? This little dance with a partner who makes us follow their lead? How many signs can we make before we run out of cardboard? Their hatred, for victims of homophobia, misogyny, sexual assault, etc., can be traumatic. Their presence is an awful reminder of awful events not only in their past, but in our nation’s past. How long are we going to have to fight? 

This is where the university can step in.

I don’t have any information on policies in regards to these events (I would love some), and I know this falls under the ever complicated issue of “free speech.” I want to make it clear that nobody with any power in this matter did anything wrong that I know of; it’s wonderful that the university has worked to foster an accepting environment, capable of pushing back against hate.

However, we are a college campus, not a playground.

We are a bastion of intellectualism, a place of improvement and expansion.

It is absurd that an organization with no direct or indirect affiliation to the university, with a message that is clearly antagonistic to everything we stand for, can waltz behind the literal heart of the campus and do whatever they want.

We have several Christian organizations on this campus who operate respectfully and within reason; the same goes for our Conservative and Republican organizations. There is a stark difference between their message and the vile display in question. In addition, I’ve seen many individuals representing Christian organizations outside of campus who engage peacefully and respectfully. This is not a hard line to draw.

I don’t want them here. We don’t want them here. It is not enough to simply not be bigoted, we must be aggressively anti-bigotry. The image of a metal fence and a police blockade around these monsters shows a clear misunderstanding of who is a threat.

The message “hate has no home on our campus outside of this specific spot” just rings a little bit cheap.

Do they not have to get permission? When someone asks if they can hold an anti-gay protest, who is tasked with saying yes? And why are they forced to do so? 

Maybe everyone involved is doing all they can, and maybe they show up one more time and then move on to the next town. I just can’t help but feel we can do more. I know we can do more.

I don’t mean to speak truth to power here, as it’s often unproductive. I would like to end by, again, congratulating you guys on an outstanding display. Your creativity and compassion made me proud to be a Prof. And I would like to thank the University for working hard to cultivate an environment of reason and open-mindedness, where our moral compasses can shine when they’re put to the test.

I promise I’ll be with you when the next fight comes, just remember to wake me up on time. 

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