Letters to the Editor

Avoiding anger in face of hatred

I would like to reply to those who argue that we should pile anger upon hate in dealing with racist acts across campus in the Nov. 5 Letters to the Editor. Yes, we should universally disapprove and condemn racist acts across campus. Should we involve the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Metropolitan Police Department and congressmen to investigate a dorm whiteboard? Surley not. As Dave Creamer succinctly pointed out in his letter in the same issue (Nov. 5, p. A4), some of us are clearly overreacting.

Yes, a swastika is more offensive than a schlong (as I’ve already said), but nonetheless it is nothing but a symbol, and a symbol only has as much meaning as we choose to give it. For example, in the Hindu faith a swastika carries an entirely different significance. Although the swastikas drawn on college whiteboards likely were meant to carry the more sinister and hateful meaning, we’ve placed a special significance on this symbol of hate by letting ourselves be angered by it. We only give it’s hateful message more strength by making it an icon and putting out front page stories about it.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. condemned racism and fought it tooth and nail but did so without anger and exaggeration. Great leaders have let the ludicrous nature of hate defeat itself. With that said, I believe we can all be thankful that the perpetrator has been caught and I hope he/she is significantly punished for his/her acts. I’ll say the same of anyone who spreads racism across my campus. I do not condone hateful acts by putting myself above them as I’ve been accused; I refuse to give hateful acts the attention and anger they need to spread hate. If I’m to be chastised for doing so, so be it.

If we let impulse and anger guide our reaction towards racism across campus, then the hateful neo-Nazi perpetrator has won the day. Do not mistake my temperance for complacency. When the day is over, it will be those of us who have learned to eschew hate that will live life with the most peace. To those who still disagree, my e-mail address is sammy@gwu.edu.

Sammy Lopez, Junior

A call for debate, discussion

Concerning University President Steven Knapp’s comment that “the posting of symbols of hatred anywhere on our campus is unacceptable no matter who is responsible and no matter what the motives may be” indicates that Knapp would be better served running a political campaign than actually tackling issues of “hate.”

Instead of utilizing the intellectual quality of academic life by starting a conversation about hatred, Knapp has issued a mindless PR statement at best and an undemocratic-like law at worst. I’ve been called a faggot on a few occasions in Foggy Bottom, and while there is no drawn symbol for the pain of that, it can scare me just as much as any neo-Nazi can, and I am both gay and born into a Jewish family.

So President Knapp, I challenge you to be challenging about discrimination and oppression, because banning symbols does not mean that those symbols cannot be imprinted on gazes, words and minds. After all, the Nazi party was banned in Germany for a time in the 1920s, rising to power years later to perform the worst genocide of the 20th century. Let’s talk intelligently about “hatred,” or our brash and ineffectual doctrines might haunt us later.

Alex Frank, Senior

Not black and white, but gray

I only recently learned about the vandalism and hate speech that has appeared on campus, and I am sure that students, faculty and alumni share my shock and bewilderment. For the vast majority of us, our years at GW were spent meeting people of all backgrounds and learning to appreciate our differences.

However, these terrible events, combined with other news in the popular media, made me think more carefully about the term “hate speech.” The suspect in the string of vandalism on campus was, without a doubt, a troubled individual and the actions may be defined as hate speech. Many may remember the media storm that followed shock jockey Don Imus’s ill-advised comments or, more recently, those of “Dog” the Bounty Hunter. Were these individuals engaging in hate speech, or were they merely grossly insensitive?

Hate speech is not an easily defined thing, and I caution those who would use the term casually. The “N-word,” which garners such attention, has an honored place in modern African-American culture and has been exported throughout the world in literature, film and especially music. Racism and xenophobia are intolerable, but caution is warranted before labeling offensive remarks as hate speech.

Alex Raileanu, Alumnus

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