Executive Content Editor
The rainbow of chalk on sidewalks and walls may have washed away since marked on campus, but for students attending the University of California, Santa Barbara last year, the effect was indelible. Pathways in front of the Student Resource Building, library and Associated Students played home to a myriad of conflicting political messages.
In addition to the usual calls to join a club or campaigning for student elections, wave after wave of chalkings pledging to vote Donald Trump for president appeared, containing writings such as “build a wall” in reference to undocumented immigrants in America or “Students unite! Stop the PC Insanity.” Student groups brought conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos to campus, striking a nerve with many members of a traditionally liberal student population.
Students who opposed chalking messages pushed back against what some call “hate speech,” sparking a fiery debate between many who support freedom of speech and those who support curtailing speech that demeans underrepresented groups. However, for some like UCSB professor George Lipsitz, the black-and-white approach to speech on campus is too limited a view of the conversation happening nationally.
Lipsitz, a professor in the sociology and Black studies departments on campus, sees those who tie freedom of speech to “unlimited liberty to demean and humiliate others” as people with “an impoverished sense of self.” Yet, for those trying to stop hate speech, Lipsitz believes that there are extra steps to take in order to be in a position to make greater change.
“Efforts to curtail hate speech constantly require members of aggrieved groups to defend their right to exist, to plead with people who hate them to be less public about their hate,” Lipsitz wrote in an email to The Bottom Line. “In the meantime, we can be diverted away from the important work of making the world and its people more capable of love.”
Love is exactly what members of the MultiCultural Center are pushing for the UCSB community to think more about in what they called the “violence and climate, nationally, domestically and locally” in an email to The Bottom Line. The MCC and Division of Student Affairs is preparing to kick off a year-long initiative called “Resilient Love in a Time of Hate.”
Both begin the school year with a one-two punch of events. Poet, singer and activist Sunni Patterson, known for her spoken word pieces about social issues pertaining to the Black community and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2004, will perform at the St. George Family Youth Center on Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.
Patterson joins Lipsitz and visiting Connecticut College professor David Kim in a talk on climates of dialogue around the nation the day after at the MultiCultural Center Theater. While marketed as a panel, Sepideah Mohsenian-Rahman, program coordinator at the MCC, described the trio’s appearance as a discussion between members of the audience and panel.
Once Wednesday night’s talk ends, MCC and Division of Student Affairs staff will prepare to deliver their next responses to the conversations happening locally and nationally. Zaveeni Khan-Marcus, director of the MCC, called the initiative “critical” given that “the national climate has been quite inhospitable to marginalized communities.”
“What is next is the continuation of this conversation with art based community making from musical performances, spoken word events and conversations about Resilient Love and its impact in the winter and spring of 2017,” Khan-Marcus wrote.
It appears that some, like Lipsitz, agree with what the MCC and Division of Student Affairs are doing to continue discussion and build that community on campus.
“We will engage in deliberate talk and shared creative activities in an effort to find something left to love in a world that too often can make each of us unlovable,” Lipsitz wrote. “We are not yet the people we will need to be to build a better world, but we can start down that road by building, affirming and ennobling relations with one another that use a spirit of co-creation to discover what we wish to be for, not just what we are against.”