In a political environment where hate and violence are becoming more socially acceptable, students should hold themselves to a higher standard.
The university was founded on ideals of inclusion and diversity. The mission statement claims the school prepares all learners to “create, lead and serve” people and the world around them. This is an important goal to remember as we overcome our differences and try to rise above the hate in the world.
Our university has dealt directly with hate groups in the past. Westboro Baptist Church members came to Oklahoma City nine years ago to protest the School of Theater’s production of The Laramie Project, a play written in response to the 1998 murder of a gay University of Wyoming student.
Students and campus community members lined up across from the protesters with tape over their mouths to protest silently. Even though members of Westboro had the right to protest peacefully, the campus community wanted to prove that there’s more love than hate in the world. This gave way to the university’s annual Love Not Hate Day, one of the Wesley Center’s biggest events of the year, which promotes spreading positivity, even in the face of negativity.
At the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally earlier this month, white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, and neo-Nazis marched against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a commander of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
The events at the rally were grotesque. Protesters carried Tiki torches and chanted Nazi salutes, with David Duke, former KKK Grand Wizard, saying they were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, and, by the end of Aug. 12, two people had been killed and more than 38 injured.
The campus community needs to remember how students in 2008 responded to Westboro: with love. Groups like this have the right to protest and speak on their beliefs, and people shouldn’t try to silence them. Instead, people need to show the world that hateful messages will always be outdone by love.
As OCU’s campus is abuzz with the excitement of a new year, students at the University of Virginia are still seeing images of their campus overrun with white supremacists. More than 4,000 new freshmen will move into their campus at UVA, according to a Business Insider article. Emily Kalafian, opinion writer for UVA’s student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, wrote that it was understandable for new students to question their decision to attend the university, but encouraged the campus community to “take even the smallest steps forward toward healing and wholeness together as one body of equal individuals.”
As you begin another year of college or start your first year, remember to show love—even to groups and individuals who explicitly hate others. Reach out to people who are struggling, comfort people who are sad and remember to embrace love, not hate.