How We Must Respond to Hate Speech

The following was originally printed in The Record


Last week, CSB President Mary Dana Hinton wrote a beautiful piece in response to the hateful signs seen in St. Joseph and St. Cloud. Specifically, the following quote sticks out to me: “I truly believe we are all interconnected, whether it is within or between our campuses or with the local or regional community. Our fates, our success and our futures tie together. So even if you do not see yourself among one of the groups targeted, your community is still targeted.” When a community is under attack, it is not the attack that matters. What matters is how the community responds, and the time to respond is upon us.

When I heard about the signs, it pained me to recall that I shrugged. As a person of color, I was not surprised. I initially avoided learning more about the signs because I know how I would feel. I remember how I felt when I heard about the 2014 FAMSAC incident and subsequent protests, as a freshman. I remember how I felt hearing persons echo the racist, xenophobic rhetoric of Donald Trump and the alt-right at the beginning of campaign season, as a sophomore. I remember how I felt when I heard about the “Build that wall” chants on the Link, as a junior. So as a senior, I tried my best to avoid fully learning about what happened. But I couldn’t, not for long.

I read the news coverage. I saw the Facebook shares. And the pain and frustration I’ve become so used to during my time at CSB/SJU came rushing back. I wanted to know why; why is there so much hate and so little tolerance? Why is there so much judgement and so little dialogue?

The little hope I received when I was asking these questions came when I saw the comments made by St. Joseph resident, Ray Sjorgen. Sjorgen made a point that I find timely and important to consider. He explained that “If we’re silent then we’re complacent.” The true danger in these situations is not the overt racism and hate of the few. Rather, it is the complacency of the majority. Right now, persons of color and other targeted groups need allies more than ever. We do not need any more inaction. It is not enough to claim we are a community when in these situations we pretend as if these are issues for the blacks, the non-Christians, the Somalis or the homosexuals. Hate affects all of us.

Since the news of the signage broke, I’ve seen students make it a point to extend an ear for persons who’ve felt excluded from this community, and we need more of that. I’ve seen members of the CSB and SJU senates also extend such courtesies. The senates have gradually become slightly more diverse during my tenure here and I am happy to see that. However, surely, they can continue to focus on promoting inclusivity for all students. They can do more and I challenge them to do so. We all can do more to ensure we fight the cloud of complacency as it relates to inclusivity; the cloud we often ignore. The attack our community experienced was jarring and should be a wake-up call to many. It is time for an even more powerful response.



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