Over the past few days, I found myself wondering about the “New Class Warfare,” Troy Davis, the “Diversity Bake Sale” at UC Berkley, and a recent invitation I received to participate in a “No Che Day” sponsored by the Young Americans for Freedom and the College Republicans. Although at a personal level, I find myself angered and at times offended by the type of vitriol, racism, and xenophobia being spewed in relationship to minorities, what concerns me more is the lack of open and informed discussion about race, immigration, the death penalty, and class –particularly with college aged adults. Teaching moments present themselves all the time, but amidst the concern of creating a media maelstrom, we sweep these important discussions under the rug. Bigotry remains unchallenged when we can use these moments to create real dialogue. I was really moved when I saw this picture in the SF Examiner, because it reminded me that we need to make “isms” visible.
UC Us Now (click link to see full picture)
As much as I disagree with some of the perspectives being advocated for by some of the aforementioned groups, I firmly believe that free speech is important. I believe that the cornerstone of democracy is the ability to share your views without fear of persecution. It’s at these moments at the crossroads that I believe it is most important to have real, difficult, uncomfortable, and even angry discussions in hopes of learning and finding new truths. Yet, it is these very discussions we shy away (or perhaps it’s run away) from. At these moments, we can actually share empirical facts and confront and challenge the fallacies that fuel so many of these movements. Just as importantly, I think it is important to ask people why they feel the way they feel.
For example, I am really proud that faculty in the Theology and Religious Study Department at USD signed a public statement challenging the death penalty . I believe that our community would be enriched if we heard why they felt making this public statement was important. These statements are not easy to make, but they are important to be heard.
So what really makes me mad as a Professor that teaches about immigration and race relations is not that racism, xenophobia, and bigotry of any kind exists. What makes me mad is the unwillingness to talk openly and honestly, regardless of one’s political persuasion, about finding common ground without promoting and growing bigotry and hate.