*Editors Note: This article was sent to The UWM Post by UWM student Lauren Hopkins. It was originally written as an email response to UWM Chancellor Mone regarding his latest campus-update email titled “Chancellor’s Update: Hatred and Free Speech” which was sent August 18, 2017. Hopkins has sent the email to Mone and now wants to make the response public. This article and the opinions do not nessisarily reflect on the UWM Post.
“Dear Chancellor Mone and the rest of the UWM community:
“We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” – Robert Jones Jr.
I cannot believe I have to write this in 2017.
To start: I am a minority student. I am disabled, gay, a woman, and make poverty-level pay. I am not a person of color and I do not purport to speak for that group. I did ask my POC friends for their input to this letter, which they graciously provided. That being said…
The most recent campus update was a slap in the face to every minority student that goes to UWM. I am sending this email for many reasons, one of which is because I am afraid this surface-kindness, wishy-washy rhetoric will actually convince moderate students that this kind of neutral prose is actually helpful. Let me be explicitly explicitly clear: It is not.
Violence is not just physical violence. Violence is hate speech. Violence is telling someone that you will provide them with a platform so that they can tell other people that I – and people like me – do not deserve to live. That guy isn’t hitting me in the face, but who knows if I’ll be alive tomorrow to acknowledge that fact.
You attempting to define free speech as a part of inclusivity is garbage. The “opportunity to explore what free speech really means” is such bureaucratic gaslighting that it’s offensive. How dare you – how DARE you – try to put the onus on us to ‘learn what free speech is.’ We know what free speech is; trust me, since the beginning of the current administration minority individuals have read more articles about free speech and its limitations than is probably healthy because we’re TERRIFIED. I’ve read the Constitution. I’ve read the actual Brandenburg v. Ohio decision. Instead, perhaps you should try to learn what, ‘death’ is and what, ‘genocide’ is.
You state that: “As a public university, we will always be a forum for the free exchange of ideas, even if some of those ideas are offensive or repugnant and challenge our thinking in terribly uncomfortable ways.”
Not even when those opinions are that all people of color, members of the queer community, disabled students, etc. should be LITERALLY killed? Because, even though you don’t ever explicitly say the word, “Charlottesville” in your email (and why not, may I ask? Too controversial?), it’s clear that that is what you’re referring to so I’ll make clear here that were are talking about Nazis; those were Nazis at Charlottesville and via that being the motivator of your email, what is ACTUALLY being said is that we need to ‘allow’ Nazis their ‘free speech.’ That you don’t seem to see the hypocrisy in this statement is telling. You simply cannot say this while concurrently saying, and I quote, that you, “have an unwavering commitment to [our] safety, inclusivity, equity and respect.” The fact that these two sentences occurred in the same email given that we all know the ideology that Nazis espouse is laughable. You want to give them a platform to talk when their entire ideology is based on the eradication of minority groups. This is not insinuation. This is not hyperbole. This is actual rhetoric they have used. The head of the KKK threatened the life of a Latina journalist as she was interviewing him. That happened this week. He followed it up with, “We killed 6 million Jews the last time. Eleven million is nothing.” But sure, his free speech is just as important as the safety of my Jewish friend. Sure. Ok.
You can cite data regarding how many minority students go here all you want but how will you support us during this time when we are supremely vulnerable? How will you keep us safe? I am reminded of the 2016 Milo Yiannopoulos visit that caused a transgender student to literally drop out of UWM. How did you keep that student safe? How did you support her? You sent an email saying you did not support Milo. That’s it. The student was still harassed. The student still dropped out. You did not keep them safe. You did not support them. As a matter of fact, you never even spoke to the marginalized student. What you DID do was call the police on students PROTESTING Milo’s visit. Will you call the police on the POC students protesting hate speech in the future? Everything in this email – EVERYTHING – is an example of empty words. The only actions seemingly taken by one who, ‘supports’ minority students at UWM seem to be actions that hurt us. A POC friend of mine asked me to make clear that when minority folk do stand up for themselves, as in BLM, they are labeled as militants. So, their platforms are not equivalent to that of the majority group. They can’t even defend themselves when hate speech is spouted as free speech. Although not a POC, nowhere is this idea clearer than in the example I cited.
You say you stand for us: Prove it. Will we see you at National Day of Action Against White Supremacy tomorrow – August 19, 2017? I truly hope so. Let me know so we can chat. But more likely, this email is another example of empty words. By even insinuating that we should entertain ideas that are rooted in racism, homophobia, etc. makes you complicit in racism, homophobia, etc. The moderate liberal is not our ally any longer, if they ever were.
I urge every member of the UWM community to speak up when you hear this kind of rhetoric. There is no shade of gray here. You can call them whatever you want: Alt-right, white Nationalists, white supremacists, whatever, but those are just PC colloquialisms so I’LL say it. These are Nazis. Let me repeat that: We are talking about actual NAZIS. We minority students are telling you explicitly – are in fact BEGGING you – to do something here. Stick up for your POC friends who, like mine, are too afraid to say anything for fear or repercussion. Speak up for the trans student in one of your classes who already has to hear every day that they are less than human. Speak up for your disabled neighbor who often cannot find a physical platform to do so for herself. These people want us dead. They should not get a platform to advocate for that. We are the Jews of WWII: Help us.
Unless we do speak up for our most marginalized groups at UWM, unless we do keep them safe and foster an actual environment of inclusivity by recognizing that people who think minority individuals’ have no right to LIVE should not be given a platform to spew hate speech under the guise of ‘free speech,’ then I can send out a periodic campus update too.
Things need to change. You don’t get to say you support minority students in the current political environment if this is your stance. Not anymore. I don’t want to ‘consider’ what free speech means. What I want is to live to get my degree.
And we are dying.
They are killing us.
And you are helping them.
Co-signed by a contingent of minority students who are literally too afraid – in the current political climate – to attach their names to this email. That should tell you something.”
*The original email sent by UWM Chancellor Mone can be read below: