Last semester, the University’s chapter of the Young America’s Foundation constructed a tiny wall in front of the amphitheater with spray-painted phrases like Black Lives Matter, CNN, Dr. Fauci, lockdowns, the 1619 Project and critical race theory. Somehow attempting to celebrate the demolition of the Berlin Wall through this bizarre demonstration, members of YAF at U.Va. proceeded to literally sledgehammer the wall to pieces.
First and foremost, we must recognize how repulsive it is that YAF felt the need to physically and symbolically bludgeon the phrase Black Lives Matter. BLM is not only a motto but also a sentiment that has empowered Black people across the globe, working to protect them from racism and xenophobia. Regardless of what the wall stands for, it is blatantly evident that YAF does not support the idea that Black Lives Matter. There is no excuse for the fact that they tried to literally tear BLM down.
Additionally, YAF thoroughly exhibits hypocrisy by driving a hammer through “censorship” of conservative ideas, only to follow it up by driving a hammer through media outlets like CNN, Reddit and Twitter. No matter the content on these mediums, it simply doesn’t make sense that YAF can suggest they oppose censorship and then say the wall symbolizes a “fall of tyranny.” The fall of any press outlet is the fall of free speech and the rise of censorship.
Finally, the conservative group espouses reckless ideals in hammering away at science and safety, through the form of Dr. Fauci and lockdowns. Fauci is one of the nation’s leading doctors, and his credentials prove beyond a doubt that his opinion during this pandemic is very much worth our attention. Also, extensive scientific research has been carried out to prove the importance of lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic. To deny science is to give into reckless endangerment of everyone’s lives.
I say all this to stress the importance that the University must deny space to such repulsive displays as this one. When we give space to prejudice, prejudice is bound to grow. The University cannot allow any group on Grounds to espouse racism or anti-science rhetoric. Such an allowance normalizes these perspectives. Providing outlets where people can safely oppose others’ freedoms and rights is the antipathy of a free nation. The saying “your rights end where mine begin” carries weight here, as people will often assume their freedom of speech means they can deny others’ right to speech, but that is simply unconstitutional. The University must take an avid stance on these issues — a stance that blocks anyone from spreading bigotry across campus, as YAF has done time and time again.
One aspect of this process is particularly applicable to us here at The Cavalier Daily Opinion Section. Our columns must always be based in fact — across every section. Opinion columnists, even if we write subjectively, must still have factual evidence supporting our arguments. Keeping that in mind, we must realize that personal character and religion are not sources of factual evidence. We can be subjective in our claims, but not in our evidence. Any column basing its argument in religious belief — not the constitutional right of religious freedom — is not based in fact. Any column that defends a person’s argument by only defending their character is not substantiated by factual details.
For instance, a student recently published a column in response to one of my own, which refuted a piece by another writer. I identified queerphobic and transphobic values in that piece, so I responded. This new column — coincidentally written by the original author’s roommate — seeks to shift my evidence-based argument away from facts and toward character. The author, who identifies as lesbian, says their roommate has supported their future wedding. They somehow believe this wedding conversation is proof that their roommate isn’t “homophobic, transphobic, racist or bigoted in any way.” Keep in mind, my own article never spoke on either of these people’s characters.
It’s a common ploy used when people have no substantial basis in their argument. Someone can bake fresh cookies for their friends every single day, but I don’t care about them being a nice person. What matters is the bigoted ideas they espouse. Tolerance cannot be a two-way street when one end of that street embraces bigotry or is a spray-painted wall symbolizing the continuance of backwards prejudice in this nation.
We cannot normalize such arguments — otherwise we end up in an endless spiral where we can’t forefront real issues. Giving space to these arguments, even here at this newspaper, is reckless and unprofessional. As much as I call on the University to deny space to bigotry, I call on all editors and staffers at The Cavalier Daily to do the same.
This University is at a tipping point. Far too many minority students fear who they may encounter each day, whether it be a fellow student — such as the ones in Chi Alpha who asked a leader to step down because he is queer — or a professor. As it stands, the University’s weak response to prejudice makes it increasingly questionable as to whether or not this campus — physical or virtual — is actually safe for all students.
Bryce Wyles is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.