Diversity is something that I believe the university is lacking. It is common to see a lack of diversity in classes, yet because many people come from a single-race town so it doesn’t seem so bad. The posters came as a shock to me personally because I had never faced such blatant propaganda. One illustrated an opinion on how refugees suckle at the tit of America and deplete its resources. I almost laughed at the absurdity, but even as I tore it down the hateful message clung to me. How could someone spread such a cruel message? How could people harbor such anger toward an entire group of people without justification?
The university tells us that although they do not support the content of the messages, they support freedom of speech. So I can’t help but wonder, where do my freedoms begin? Am I free in a place where someone else tells me I am genetically inferior? Is it appropriate for me to read that my white mother made a catastrophic mistake by dating my black father? These messages tear apart the identity of our students, but we are expected to uphold and respect the right to be hated.
Students of color can find some solace in student organizations or friend groups. Knowing that you aren’t alone can bring comfort, even while your identity and worth is being attacked. These resources are important when issues like these arise because having community can influence how someone experiences these events. Yet the posters still come up in conversation. I am forced to remember the anger I felt, the shame, the sadness. This is the problem with hate speech. No matter what it says, or how incorrect it may be it is damaging. For this, I want to say I’m sorry to every student negatively impacted by these people’s decision to abuse their rights. I think the only way to create a better environment is to actively teach that just because you have the freedom to say something doesn’t mean you should. It is important to not group entire communities together, this is how bias happens. When you stop seeing people as they are due to preconceived beliefs, you miss out on important aspects of their character. As future healthcare professionals, we have to be able to take any bias out of our mind to properly treat patients. Viewing each person as an individual who deserves respect creates a more inclusive and accepting environment for everyone.
My questions for you all are: Do you think that freedom of speech should encompass hate speech? What restrictions should be in place to prevent messages like these from infiltrating a supposedly safe learning environment?