When Does Diversity of Opinion Go too Far?
With racial tensions high and patience low, racial minorities and concerned allies rallied together in hopes for progress of change and a united community.
On Sept. 12, the University of Maryland African American Studies Department hosted a town hall meeting, themed “Protecting Our Community.” Panelists Dr. Alana Hackshaw, Professor Robert Choflet, Professor Jonathan England, Dr. Joseph Richardson, Dr. Jason Nichols and student activist Erica Puentes discussed the racial climate on the university campus.
Following the murder of Lieutenant Richard Collins III on May 20, 2017, events such as this one have become increasingly sought-after.
Students have recounted tensions prior to the brutal stabbing and the reaction of the university’s administration. Students recalled the campus occupied with white supremacist flyers, Swastika symbols, racially charged chalkings and the presence of nooses, leading to define the line between freedom of speech and hate speech.
Many students were upset over the response from the university and as President of Community Roots Jasmine Braxton, junior African American Studies and Criminology and Criminal Justice major said, “there’s a difference in being silent and being neutral.”
In a country and campus with such intense diversity, varying opinions are bound to exist. However, there is a debate that remains as to how these differences may be addressed.
With people such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos being extremely controversial figures in regard to their political associations, the question was raised whether on-campus debates or events with them would promote diversity of opinion, or create an uncomfortable environment that students should not be subject to. While it may introduce people to their opinions, there is also the consideration that with eloquent discourse, those teetering on the edge of their beliefs, may be nudged in a different direction.
Dr. Hackshaw was contingent that it is, “exposure that plants the seed that creates opportunities to dialogue.”
A point continuously mentioned in the conversation was education and whose job it is to inform the ignorant. Where does one begin? Do we begin with students? Do we begin with faculty? Do we begin with the president of the university? Or do we take it to the legislatures that fund our university?
Though it is difficult to pin the responsibility onto one individual, students in the audience noted opposition from Caucasians. Though “with progress comes white resistance,” Erica Puentes, senior African American studies major said.
In an effort to turn things around and move toward progress, attendees proposed possible solutions on dealing with racially sensitive issues on campus.
One idea mentioned was taking an online course on diversity, inclusion, and respect as a requirement to attend UMD. Another student also mentioned training on the same subject if one should be caught involved in racist incidents.
A group of students, seniors Kristian Simon, Marquise Mckine, Kabrea Hayman, and University of Maryland alumni Breion Goodson and Yonas Rosario as well as Hampton University alumnus Phillip Jackson have decided to take matters into their own hands by creating a film titled “3 days, 15 Miles.” The film will document a journey of healing following the murder of Collins, as school was intended to be a safe place but now pillars and intuitions of education are at risk.
The film is meant to address the climate on campus and provide insight to opinions of fellow students and staff. With so many different ideas and opinions coming to the forefront in the community, there is an obligation to progress, endurance, and ultimately a goal of equality.