Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Silent Demonstration Counters Hate Speech

This piece was written by Notre Dame Senior Christian Myers and originally published as an article in Common Sense on April 23, 2014.

There is always a silver lining.
 
 
Right-wing pundit and author Ann Coulter came to campus this semester at the invitation of Notre Dame College Republicans and followed through on her reputation for insensitive and disparaging comments. Coulter’s visit, however, had the positive effect of sparking a movement among several student groups to counteract hate speech on our campus.
 
The College Republicans have a valid interest in bringing speakers to campus who share their views and argue for those stances fervently and sincerely. In extending an invitation to Coulter, however, the group missed an opportunity to bring in someone to make a reasoned argument for conservative positions and values. They instead opted for a speaker who makes the case for conservatism by attacking and insulting everyone outside the fold.
 
The vitriol of Coulter runs counter to the idea of a Notre Dame “family” that many students prize and administrators emphasize.
 
The majority of Notre Dame students oppose hate speech, but it wasn’t until someone came to campus who said “they should have had the administrators of Notre Dame onstage taking a polygraph test on whether they believe in God” after the President of the United States spoke at commencement that these students felt they had to come together to make this opposition known.
 
The Diversity Council convened a meeting that allowed students concerned about Coulter’s visit to discuss the event and hate speech more generally, which ultimately inspired the beginnings of a campaign against hate speech. 
 
The first action in this new campaign was a silent demonstration outside of South Dining Hall the night before Coulter’s visit. The protest was led by NAACP Notre Dame and primarily organized by the group’s president, Niciah Petrovic.
 
Demonstrators wore all black, held “No Hate” posters, and distributed placards with derisive quotes from Coulter about specific groups of people. The demonstration had many participants and drew a fair amount of attention from passersby. More importantly, though, it sent a clear message that students at Notre Dame do not approve of the hate speech that comes from Coulter and others.
It is important to note that the demonstration was not political. There is room for a vigorous and reasoned debate between the politically conservative and liberal on campus, but the demonstration and overall campaign is about respect for others in our campus community and in our larger national community—which ought to be apolitical.
 
It is a call to civil discourse in disagreement, which is always more difficult than respecting those one agrees with but just as important.
 
This silent demonstration was a meaningful experience for those involved and a great way to show that an often passive Notre Dame student body can engage when it becomes necessary, when it is important to send a message. It should not, however, make those students complacent.
 
The demonstration will not be a success until students carry through with a sustained commitment to countering hate speech in our campus community.
 
The broader discussion of and campaign against hate speech will continue next year with the momentum gained and connections formed through the silent demonstration. A coalition of students will endeavor to organize events and spark discussion on this important topic.
 
As much as the visit of Coulter involved some ill-advised comments on both sides, and especially from Coulter herself, it has allowed students to unify in resistance to hate speech in a way that holds promise for the future.

Now as the cloud passes,  the silver lining looks bright.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hate speech is Ann Coulter’s forte. She has become increasingly over-the-top, with some very bizarre remarks. A growing number of people are discovering that we should Never Trust Ann Coulter – at ANY Age, at www.coulterwatch.com/never.pdf.