Last week, I picked up The Rocky Mountain Collegian and couldn't believe the absolute vile hatred I was exposed to. The front page of Thursday's edition featured a story about racist pamphlets that have been distributed throughout campus railing against African Americans and Black History Month.
When I turned the page to finish the story, I was faced with a guest column railing against gay marriage by a "concerned CSU staff member." In just a few pages of the Collegian, I saw two subjects that literally brought tears to my eyes and nausea to my stomach.
My parents once told me that I should never react to a situation when I was angry; that I should instead wait until my temper cooled and I could react logically. Thus, I waited and waited to write this column, hoping I could stop being so angry, but I have yet to settle down.
So, I am done waiting.
I have a question for all of you out there who have such a distinct hatred for others who happen to be different: What are you so afraid of?
If you think homosexuals should not have the right to be happy and marry, what about it scares you? If you think black people are not equal to white people, what makes you that way?
Those are questions my anger causes me to ask every time I learn about happenings like the pamphlets and column. Yet, I know the answers to these questions aren't all that relevant because they will only clarify reasoning that I already know exists; answers that remain unchanged no matter if I agree or disagree with them. That is why I am not necessarily looking for answers from such people as much as I am hoping for them to change the way they act on their beliefs.
I have gone through more multicultural leadership retreats and seminars than I can even count – three in just the past semester – and every time I leave one, I feel so positive about the way the world could be. I talk to people who have a different background than my white, middle-class upbringing, and I smile because that is what college and life should be about – learning.
I guess that is why I am just so saddened by this past week. At those retreats, I have heard from victims of racist attacks; at those seminars, I was told what it is like to be thought of as disgusting and unnatural, just because of whom one is attracted to. Knowing the pain that comes from such acts, all I want to do is tell all the homophobes and racists out there that they are wrong, ignorant and vile. I want to, but I can't because that would be exhibiting the same behavior I am so against.
Barb Kistler, director of the Student Leadership and Civic Engagement Office here at CSU, has facilitated countless seminars and retreats teaching the values of multicultural understanding. In many of the training sessions I have attended, Kistler has advocated the idea that blame must be left out of the discussion if we are to learn to accept differences.
"One of the key contributors to 'isms' [like racism] is the power imbalance issue often created by the need to be right," Kistler wrote in an e-mail interview. "I believe it's imperative that we adopt a position of 'acceptance does not equal agreement'. If we don't, then we will continue to push for 'universal truths' by which to regulate strict behavior parameters."
It is the slippery slope of generalities that leads us to the hatred that is racism and homophobia. When we start believing that one feature – like skin color or sexual preference – makes an entire group of people the same, we have already made a serious mistake. If we then decide that feature alone should elicit our hatred and disgust, we have made the gravest error of all – we have decided we are in the right, and those unlike us are in the wrong.
It is that decision that we must avoid making in the future. Right and wrong are such subjective terms – terms that lead to confrontation, not conversation. We must eliminate the hatred for the other side of an issue and replace it with some level of tolerance, if not acceptance. We cannot continue to polarize the world in which we live by grouping people together with traits we disagree with; traits that are completely out of the control of such individuals.
Racism and homophobia are products of a fear that I just do not understand. Yet, it is not really my place to tell you that those beliefs are wrong. No, it is the hatred and hurt that is associated with those fears I must judge. I have seen the pain and heard the stories, and the hatred must stop.
We are all here at CSU to learn, and we owe it to each other – and the world's future – to expand that learning beyond the classroom to a human level. It is those human lessons like tolerance and understanding that will actually change the world, and I assure you, our world is in need of such a powerful change.
Jake Blumberg is a technical journalism and political science double major. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.