The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.
Where Main Street lines the neatly shorn grass and well-watered trees of campus, a sign sticking out of the ground reads there is “no place for hate in our town,” accompanied by a red icon with the word “HATE” struck through.
Meanwhile, in the Curris Center, a group of white nationalists identifying as members of the Traditionalist Workers Party sit proudly at a table in front of the University Bookstore.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
As students of a university that boasts its status as a safe, inclusive home for students of all walks of life, we’re facing the harsh reality of what buzzwords like “inclusive” and “open” really mean.
The Traditionalist Workers Party – whose website, tradworker.org, stylistically resembles 1940s Nazi or Stalinist propaganda – claims not to be one of white supremacy, but their views are clearly steeped in racism, fear and hatred. A group seeking to unify white people and avoid all other races – in their mind, restoring America to its former ethnocentric glory – their presence on our campus is a deeply unsettling statement of hostility.
But while their views are retrogressive to say the least, they were not violating any policies in having a table in the Curris Center last Wednesday.
Hate speech is a psychological disruption, yes, but if it doesn’t incite actual violence, it is protected
under the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, then, they had a right to their spot, and the university could not force them to leave.
But how can Murray State at once be a safe space, one that is conducive to every student learning in an open environment and one that allows groups who make students feel threatened?
We might be tempted to equate the university with a disloyal friend, one who is so philosophically undecided that they see no problem in being both for us and against us. With anti-hate pickets, Safe Zone stickers and non-discrimination policies on every syllabus, the friend had us convinced that they’d make every effort to keep us happy.
But make no mistake: the university is not on our side.
It’s not on your side or your friend’s side or your enemy’s side.
It can’t be because it isn’t a person. As much as our administration attempts to appeal to our love of the local, the small town and independent, there’s no hiding the fact that Murray State is a school and not a down-to-earth progressive yet traditional farmer turned teacher turned banker turned savior of Humane Society dogs.
Beneath the banners of multicultural faces, beneath the varied shoes nailed to a tree, beneath the pamphlets and handouts, Murray State is brick and mortar, void of feeling or thought.
We cannot rely on the blurred lines of policies and bylaws to make it known that this is a safe place, just as we can’t rely on our slogans to prove we’re a population of intelligent, successful and innovative students.
It’s on us to tell Kentuckians, international students and citizens of Murray what we stand for. The walls of the Curris Center can’t respond to bigotry, but we can.
It’s the ultimate cliché to quote Martin Luther King Jr. in a time of political and social unrest, but his words ring true now more than ever: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
If we truly are a student body that strives to support and include people of all nationalities and identities, we must make it our mission, abandoning university affiliation or pseudo-support, to prove that by our actions every day.
We will not be overtaken by individuals who use intimidation and psychological bullying to make us cower in defense or charge with rage. If we are who we say we are, we will prove the signs right: there is simply no room for hate in Murray.