I've got be honest. I love the guys with the “Evolution is a Lie” signs. The collective disgust that spreads through campus every time they park themselves on our quad fills me with hope. We all feel the discomfort that comes with their blatant homophobia, racism, sexism and all the other -isms they bring with them onto this campus. When I was in high school, I felt like I was the only person who recognized wrongdoing and often felt like I was alone in standing up to it. When I tried to talk to people about why they should care about these issues like sexism, racism and how the denial of evolution is a dangerous perception which creates a false narrative and transgresses on the progress of society, I often got the response that they “just don’t care about politics.” It hurt to hear that repeatedly.
Standing up to homophobia is not an inherently political act.
Standing up to sexism is not an inherently political act.
Standing up for science is not an inherently political act.
It’s called being a decent human being. It can be a political act, like when you filibuster legislation that denies women the right to abortion, or when you stand outside the Supreme Court to make sure that LGBTQ+ people cannot be fired or denied jobs based on their sexuality or identity.
What filled me with hope about the events on Wednesday was that most students standing up to the rhetoric of the protesters were not political science majors or minors. They were not members of the college Democrats or college Republicans. Some, if not most, probably could not give two sh*ts about the Democratic primary or the Iowa caucus. What filled me with hope was that many of the people at the protest saw ignorance and purposeful blindness happening within their community and stood up to it. They saw these men trying to spread hate and responded in equal by making it clear that the students of UMass Boston will not tolerate it.
To be clear, I believe in and support free speech. I don’t believe that the government has good reason to censor certain free speech unless there is proof that it will cause immediate and present danger. However, I think a lot of times people forget that you’re only protected from censorship from the government. When people spit sexist and racist crap and then say, “I have the right to free speech,” like that makes what they say magically okay, they forget that I have—as a non-government entity—have the right to call them out on their sexist and racist crap. If you’re going to say stupid and ignorant crap, expect to get some sh*t back for it.
I know we probably didn’t change any minds. I know those protesters didn’t see this massive wave of people and think, “goddamn, maybe evolution is real!” But the truth is that the men who preached hatred and violence against women and LGBT people were not here to change our minds either. They weren’t here—with their bullhorns and microphones—to have an intelligent discussion about the nuances within the rapid progress of modern society and how quick our moral compass is changing within America.
They were here to preach hatred. They were here to fill our ears with their nasty rhetoric, seeking to sow seeds of animosity and create division on our campus. They were here to take advantage of more vulnerable students who feel divided and give them something or someone to target their frustration and resentment toward. This psychological violence is happening on our campus in 2019 and I am immensely proud to go to a school that won’t stand for it. I’m immensely proud to go to a school that will come together and stand up to these bigots each time they return to our campus.
They’ll be back, but we’ll be here, and we won’t let them think that we’re okay with their hatred in our community, on our campus—now, or ever.