OPINION: SU Students Confuse Disagreement with Hate Speech
Too often we confuse disagreement with hate speech. Becoming angry at what we feel is an attack on our beliefs, we lash out and strike preemptively instead of pausing to consider what was spoken. Afraid of being seen as weak or wavering, we clutch our thoughts to our chests and beat off other ideas that come too close. How many wars could go unwaged, swords unbloodied and soldiers unscathed, if two disagreeing people sat down and spoke? More so, what would happen if those two people spoke honestly, compassionately, and without anger toward the other?
Recently, Vivienne Miller wrote a Megaphone article, Student Body Reeling After On-Campus Hate Crime, concerning an act of hostility conducted by a brother of Phi Delta Theta toward a Southwestern student and her partner. This article will not describe the act in detail, but you may read about it here. Miller’s article states the facts of the incident and is mostly composed of an admirable statement contributed by the Phi Delta Theta president, Zach Rowen.
Even so, individuals on Southwestern’s campus have taken it upon themselves to repeatedly flag this article as inappropriate on the Southwestern app. While some of these actions may be brushed off as trolling, I believe that there are some who feel genuinely threatened by this article’s existence, and it is important to address these real concerns.
It is true that there is a tension across partisan lines in mass media, and unfortunately the Megaphone is no different. Some individuals feel underrepresented, and to some extent that is understandable. What is concerning is the lack of articulate response from those who feel as though they have no voice. I believe that the Megaphone strives to provide a platform for all students, regardless of political or social leanings. Any student newspaper should reflect the thoughts and beliefs of the student body, but someone must first be willing to write. I invite anyone with a story to speak to one of the Megaphone’s editors and contribute to the campus news and student life.
Regardless, a dialogue must always be had about tension. The “bias-related incident” on our campus is only one manifestation of many competing areas of social strain, and these spaces must be addressed. If everyone speaks of a conflict behind closed doors, they speak into nothing but an echo chamber. Although echo chambers may have spurred a few philosophical digressions, they never changed anyone’s life.
I understand that our nation and our popular culture have set bad examples of listening and responding to others’ concerns, a trend certainly not exclusive to the past couple of years. It is easy to hide behind a screen or a friend and ignore those whose opinions differ from your own, especially opinions you find hurtful or personally offensive. Even so, the worst that can happen is that someone raises a good point, and you are forced to look at your own beliefs and reevaluate, possibly strengthening and solidifying your views into more informed opinions. While we certainly do not have to sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya, we should be able to hold a discussion without resorting to ye olde bubble and duck tail. I encourage everyone to have civil conversations about their concerns instead of allowing them to fester. Although we have been raised in a climate that often wishes for nothing more than to sound the loudest battle cry, we Southwestern students can do better.
We can listen to someone who thinks differently than we do without becoming defensive.
We can learn about things that make us uncomfortable without feeling powerless or victimized.
We can consider new ideas and be open to walking away with a new understanding of the other side.
We can approach a person from a space of humble inquiry, striving only to better understand.
We can remember that a disagreement is not an attack on our free speech but an exercise of someone else’s.
Wars are waged to be won; discussions are held in order to understand. Let’s all take a moment to understand.