Love is stronger than hate

Friends and family are crucial to survival in the face of hatred.

Emily Brown, Columnist

For the past two years, there have been a group of Christian protesters on campus spewing hate speech targeted at marginalized groups. On Feb. 18, the same group was spotted at Macalester College. Currently it is unknown if they plan on coming to Hamline University, but based on their past actions, it is safe to say that they will return to campus.

Hamline is private property except the sidewalks in front of Old Main and the sidewalk along Snelling. The protestors know this and are aware that they cannot be removed from campus.  

When I first heard about this, I was surrounded by my queer friends and we were all stressing out. My mind went to dark thoughts about people who don’t know me shaming me for who I am and what I’ve been through. The Hamline SPECTRUM President, senior Chris Holmes was trying to find a way to stop the protest. He echoed an email received by all students from the Dean of Students office saying the interactions between students and protesters were tense and emotional.

SPECTRUM after seeing the email, reached out to the Dean of Students office with concerns and received another email from the Dean of Students office saying they can’t do anything due to the protestors’ right to exercise their freedom of speech and if anything happens, the university will step in to help the students. However, hate speech isn’t free speech. With the possibility  of almost becoming violent last year, it’s no longer a matter of free speech, it’s a matter of protecting Hamline students, staff and faculty.

I understand that Hamline administration is in a tough situation, but there has to be something they can do besides send out an email telling students to ignore hate speech and to live in peace saying, “Living in peace requires peaceful reaction to provocation.” I’ll thank the university for creating a safe space for students once the protestors show up to campus. For me, it doesn’t seem like enough, even though I know the administration is doing everything they can to protect the students.

SPECTRUM was one of the reasons I was excited to come to Hamline. The first time I visited Steve Anderson’s office, Disability Resources, I saw the label of him being an LGBT ally. I have also noticed a section in my syllabi saying that teachers respect students’ pronouns and ask them what their pronouns are. As a queer and disabled woman, I feel totally safe at Hamline and I really don’t want that to change. Being out with and proud of my sexuality on campus does wonders for my mental health and it also helps the queer people around me to be out and proud.

A big portion of the queer community struggles with mental health and anxiety. Due to this, protestors on campus can pose a real threat to queer students and other students. Tensions have the potential to rise to violence, this can be inferred due to the fact that Public Safety stepped in last year before things got physical. Of that alone, Hamline administration should be able to do something more than send out an email saying, “condemns hatred and bigotry in all its forms.” I do not think we should wait until actual violence ensues  to step in and stop these hateful protesters.

I do not think we should close the university to wait out the protestors. Classes can’t afford to do that and if we do, we admit that the protestors have a crippling effect on us. We admit defeat even before the battle begins. Why? That is what they want. They want to scare us. They want to make us feel invalid. They want to make us feel ashamed for who we are, who we love and what we’ve been through.

I’ll admit, they succeeded somewhat with me. When I found out they were possibly coming, I was scared I was going to hear some very negative things that would hit close to home. I was at dinner and I could barely eat that night.

After some reflection and comforting words from my mom, I remembered that the protesters don’t know me. They just assume some small facts about me that don’t explain my whole personality. Their hateful words and actions have nothing to do with me or the queer community and everything to do with them.

We are free to be ourselves and we deserve to do it in a safe environment.