Love speaks louder
Students should be commended for protesting against hate speech Wednesday
University students joined together to counter a demonstration Wednesday which happened to coincide with the University’s Pride Week. The group of students joined hands and sang the “Good Ol’ Song” in order to drown out the protesters’ speech, which included homophobic statements and condemnations of many members of the University community.
Associate Dean of Students Laurie Casteen told students it would be best for them to leave rather than give the protesters any further attention, and most of the students then dispersed. One of the commenters on the article also said it would have been better just to ignore the people spewing the hate speech, because “they measure their success in outrage generated and YouTube hits.”
While Curry graduate student Amanda Handy’s video of the event has given the extreme religious demonstrators more attention than they would have gotten otherwise, the attention was more focused on the students’ reaction than on the initial demonstration. The YouTube video has gotten 31,000 views and several University students have shared it on Facebook with positive commentary about the student response.
The message of the students’ singing was that the University community would rather hear the welcoming and encouraging voices of the student body than a religious group’s inflammatory comments condemning their fellow LGBTQ classmates. A lack of response may have lessened the attention the demonstrators received, but it would not have prompted any sense of solidarity among University students, nor any sense of confidence among LGBTQ students that their community supports them, and is courageous enough to take a stand against speech that makes them feel unsafe.
Third-year College student and president of Queer Allied Activism Greg Lewis stood in the same area as the protestors and held a sign that said “This is not a safe space,” which he had originally prepared for the Queering Spaces campaign to identify areas where hate crimes have occurred. Lewis said what happened in the Amphitheater was an example of the challenges LGBTQ students face every day.
There may not be dramatic demonstrations like Wednesday’s every day, but homophobic speech can make its way into everyday language. We discussed in our earlier editorial on IFC Safe Space training how casual remarks that include derogatory slurs in order to be funny can dissuade gay students from entering Greek life. Remarks like these are not limited to the Greek system, and LGTBQ students may encounter them every day. When a student makes a derogatory remark, letting it go does nothing to change attitudes or mindsets. But speaking up and expressing disapproval toward the comment makes the person think twice about saying it again, and makes LGTBQ students more comfortable, knowing their peers care enough to address comments that can degrade and marginalize.
Wednesday’s student response was a way of saying that University students do not tolerate hurtful speech on any scale. It was a message saying that when hate speaks, love speaks louder. And our community is stronger because of it.