In the News | Our View: Let’s stop shouting and have a discussion (Editorial)

Moderator speaking at forumNorwich, CT (Norwich Bulletin, September 28, 2017) — Enough with all the shouting.

We shouted at each other over Civil War monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, with white supremacists and their allies battling counter-protesters. Now tempers are flaring over President Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of NFL players protesting during the national anthem. Some fans have literally burned the jerseys of their favorite players, and Trump has called out “spoiled” players for denigrating the flag, a symbol of American pride and patriotism. He also canceled the Golden State Warriors’ invitation to visit the White House.

“The NFL and NBA shout back that the administration has no empathy for the plight of minorities in America,” Edward Derr, of Three Rivers Community College, said Monday night. “And all we do is shout at each other even louder while America becomes more and more divided.“

The college and Derr, the campus’ student diversity and Title IX coordinator, took it upon themselves this week to rise above it all and set an example by hosting a pair of forums across two nights titled “Is Hatred and Violence the New Norm in American Society?“

The forums addressed the continuing plague of discrimination in American society, whether in the form of racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, and anti-immigration sentiments.

“We become complacent and engulfed in other issues such as the economy, foreign affairs, the environment, outbreaks of civil war in the Third World, and terrorism at home and abroad,” said Derr, a professor of history and sociology. “Yet, we have failed to realize that the anger and frustration are all connected to all of the same issues.” He noted that memorials in Charlottesville and other places “are merely symbolic metaphors for the anger felt by African-Americans over the perceived continued racist attitudes of the police and American society.“

Confederate statues, Confederate flags, and swastikas represent prejudice, discrimination, and exclusion for many Americans, yet for some they are simply cultural symbols.

The forum panelists, including students, discussed how these differences can be resolved. And while they hardly solved the world’s problems, they took a key step: They had a discussion.

During 2017 and since Trump took office, college campuses around the country have experienced major student protests. These students claim that colleges promote hostile environments that harm minority students and hinder their ability to learn. To deal with these problems, students have demanded that college administrators create “safe-spaces” in which offensive or disagreeable speech is prohibited and punished. These demands have sparked debate about the nature of free speech and higher education, and a recent survey found that a fifth of college undergrads say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.“

We agree with Derr, who has been organizing forums for seven years, and who put today’s events into a long-term context.

“The college campus must be an environment in which we can discuss our differences in a civil manner, where we listen to each other. We must put violence aside and remember that Enlightenment ideology, the foundation of our constitutional society, emphasizes the rule of law; we must use our political and legal resources to continue to build an American society that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion for all in America,” Derr said.

 

— Editorial Board, Norwich Bulletin

The original editorial can be found here: “Our View: Let’s stop shouting and have a discussion”

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