By Jacqueline Hyman
This year, several acts of violence have left the country shocked and divided as citizens try to cope with losses and threats. People from many different groups have been unfairly targeted, and with these events comes the question: how do we combat this?
The protests and murder in Charlottesville, Virginia proved that racism and bigotry are still very prominent in the U.S. While citizens always have every right to protest, the use of violence and hateful slurs is completely unacceptable. The cries of “Jews will not replace us” shocked many and evoked responses from many Jews who’ve directly experienced anti-Semitism.
The fact that there are even people in America, in 2017, called neo-Nazis — and thereby associating themselves with the Nazis of WWII — is horrifying. With a large Jewish population on campus, it’s impossible to avoid thinking about the negative effects anti-Semitic speech can have. Just earlier this year, many Jewish cemeteries around the country were vandalized and Jewish Community Centers were threatened. We shouldn’t have to worry about our safety as students in Jewish centers and parents shouldn’t have to worry about their kids in afterschool programs.
In May, Bowie State University student Richard Collins III was killed by a student at this university. This story, of course, made national news because it is being investigated by university police and the FBI as a potential hate crime. The whole campus felt different — somber and even a little unsafe — for a while after that. Even months later, there was a planned moment of reflection for students at the beginning of this school year. School officials also decided to relocate the bus stop close to where Collins was killed.
It’s terrifying to think that someone was murdered on our campus, in a place many of us walk past every day. It’s even more terrifying to realize that it was a senseless crime committed because a student at this university didn’t like the color of someone else’s skin.
Maryland generally feels like a level-headed state, full of diversity and tolerance. We always think that this kind of thing can’t happen to us, or near us, or in our community. We think the people around us would never do something so horrific.
But it’s that kind of thought process, the willingness to turn a blind eye, that allows the hatred to continue. Instead, we need to be ready to confront this kind of injustice. Whether it’s through speech or action, whether it’s directly affecting us or not. The most important way to get through to people is just by talking to them. It can be hard, when argumentative people don’t want to listen. On both sides of any argument, though, we need to be willing to settle down, have conversations, explain ourselves fully and try to understand the other person before jumping to conclusions.
This is not to say that hateful speech or acts (or the people committing them) are justifiable. What this means is we should be trying to reach people before it gets to that point. Just reach out to people who have different viewpoints from yourself about anything. Expand your knowledge of other points of view. This won’t solve all of our problems or erase the crimes of the past few months. But hopefully, as we talk to people with different experiences from ourselves, we can work to understand each other’s viewpoints and slowly but surely begin to bring everyone together.
Jacqueline is a senior journalism and English major. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.