Speaking out against the silence of compliance

Photo courtesy of yaf.org

Photo courtesy of yaf.org

By Colin Mancini, Contributing Writer

A lot has been said since September 25. Plenty of people have voiced their concerns about the posters put up by Young Americans for Freedom and how people responded to them. I do not want to talk about that, not directly. No, I want to talk about Gettysburg College: the administration and their role in all of this.

I would like to say that I am completely disappointed, and frankly, the college’s response has upset me more than the actual posters. Being from rural/suburban Pennsylvania I know that there are people who say hateful things. I believed the college stood for something which would not view this as acceptable. Instead, I was told that no bias incident occurred, the posters were not a hate crime, and no one could prove that “objective harm” was done to anyone by those posters because they did not target a specific group or person. I was told that any responses to it were “subjective.”

These are the college’s decisions, all of which are upsetting and hypocritical.

In order to make this claim, the college decided that the term “anchor baby” does not refer to any specific group. It decided that the history of the word, which has only been used to attack Central and South American people for their choice to move to the United States, is “subjective.” The fact of the matter is that the word attacks this specific group of people, but since it is not as historically powerful as words like “f*****,” the college has plausible deniability.

However, the college has stepped in before, specifically this past summer. The Confederate flag had become a popular item in town, so the College went door-to-door and asked people to stop displaying these flags. After its reaction to this issue, the college’s reasoning regarding the posters is even more baffling. Could I not argue that they had no right to do so, that they were simply reacting subjectively to a piece of cloth?

I do not agree with this conclusion at all, but to some the flag represents pride, so isn’t the school’s reaction “subjective?” Either it is, or the college should acknowledge that their logic is faulty and hypocritical.

Point being this entire conversation has been subverted to pretend to be about freedom of speech. Dean Ramsey’s letter was almost entirely about this right, as if that is the reason people are upset.

People have the right to say as they would like, but the problem here is that a student group intended to hurt and attack members of our campus community. They chose to use the words “anchor baby” and “baby killers” rather than describing their views as “for harsher immigration restrictions” and “pro-life.” The tongue-in-cheek “#notpc” shows a blatant disregard for the feelings of others. This isn’t about their views; College Republicans has never never had the backlash YAF has received. This is about the hateful and racist language they have used.

Gettysburg College is supposed to be a community that includes everyone, one that is a safe space for people to “engage difference.” Our Office of Diversity and Inclusion seeks to create “an inclusive learning and working environment.” Indirectly calling students “anchor babies” and “baby killers” is counter-intuitive to everything the college supposedly stands for. The consequences of this event are real; I have seen people made sick with anxiety and people to therapy because they know there are people on campus who do not accept them.

I personally know people who have been verbally harassed, attacked and blackmailed by members or the national affiliate of the organization.

Ridiculously, the college is treating these incidents as entirely separate, personal issues. Psychological and emotional harm has been done, regardless of the “objective” argument, and some empathy would allow those who are making these decisions to see that.

The consequences do not end there. I just received an email from President Riggs regarding the defacing of the Black Lives Matter event poster, where individuals have cut out Opal Tometi’s face and written in “ALL lives matter.” The President has done the same thing as the Dean in reiterating the college’s commitment to diversity and an “inclusive campus,” but there is no indication that anything is going to be directly done by the school.

If I have learned anything from my Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies courses, it’s that silence in times of injustice is compliance, and that’s exactly what is happening. The posters that went up were deliberately offensive and hurtful. Because the college has done nothing, people believe this type of discourse is acceptable and will not have consequences. This inaction has created an uncomfortable campus climate and allowed for the proliferation of hateful speech. Even though the executive structure of Gettysburg College is supposed to lead and help create an inclusive campus, the buck has been passed to the students, and now it is our job to fix it. Silence is compliance, and while the college has chosen that option, I refuse to. We as a community must collectively decide, right now, that this is unacceptable. Once that’s been decided we must act accordingly: defend and support those who are affected, own our feelings and experiences and never remain silent.

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