Reaction Encourages Racists

by Mulei Nthenge | 2/5/96 6:00am

To the Editor:

I am appalled by the acts of hate speech that have been committed on campus. But that's all I am: appalled. I will not spend anymore of my time thinking about them or devising elaborate plans to react to them.

Think about this. It takes a few seconds to scroll "chink" or "nigger." It takes weeks for the debris ensuing from that single act to settle back. It consumes the energy and time of innocent people. It sets students against each other by dividing us into "silent" and "active" camps, screaming at each other (oops! no, the "active" scream while the "silent" just get nauseated). It gives the despicable racists unlimited media coverage. In other words, the racist has a field day.

While acts of hatred may be intolerable, we should check our reactions. Undeniably, it is upsetting to find denigrating graffiti on your door. It is another thing to show your reaction to it. You shouldn't give another individual -- especially an individual you despise -- the power to determine your emotional state. It just goes to show how important his opinion is to you. It gives him the assurance that he can throw the College into a frenzy whenever he decides to. Is this what you really want to show him?

It's clear that no disciplinary action can be taken against hateful speech. That fact should slowly but surely sink into our consciousness, and the sooner the better. If nothing can be done, the best response -- surprise, surprise -- is pitiful silence. I'm floating the idea that a forum of sorts (I don't care what) be formed to simply register our pity for individuals so narrow-sighted as to go about scrolling epithets against others.

Forcing him to apologize to the community will not help either. It will give most of us a good feeling but it will leave him bitter and embarrassed. I believe he has the right to hold an opinion and the right to communicate it anonymously, however disagreeable it is.

You know, I can't help but draw a parallel between the recent spate of criticism against affirmative action and the current conspicuous silence on this issue from mainstream campus (Note that Kishan Putta '96 is the one who pointed out that 'hate-speech code cannot stand in a court of law.' And note that Putta is staunchly against affirmative action). Sheer random coincidence of opinion on purely unrelated issues? A predictable pattern of intolerance for minorities? Who can say? Just something for you to think about.

Keep reaching for the heavens and you might just land on the moon! Don't let anyone wear you down.