On Saturday, September 16th, there was a peaceful protest over a judge’s acquittal of white police officer Jason Stockley, who was charged with the first-degree murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, a young black man. In 2001, on December 20th, Officer Stockley shot Smith five times and killed him, claiming that Smith was chasing him. His partner attempted to arrest him for a drug deal and Stockley said he feared for his life because Smith had a silver revolver on him. However, the prosecutor believed the gun to be planted since it had Stockley’s DNA on it but no trace of Smith’s DNA. Officer Stockley was also recorded via body cam saying that he was going to kill Smith.
After the peaceful protest had officially ended, saying they would reconvene on Sunday, several protestors stayed behind and continued to protest. Police officers arrived and told the remaining protesters to go home, saying that their protest was unlawful. Things quickly turned violent and several windows of surrounding businesses were smashed and several arrests were made.
This is yet another result of the justice system failing and people are, quite clearly, sick of it. There was strong evidence that Officer Stockley was guilty but he got away with murder. So we have people protesting in the street, decrying this injustice, and even people who believe simple protests are not enough and feel the need to resort to violence. And if protests and words will not work, and more African Americans continued to get killed while their murderers go free, who can blame them for escalation? If the people we put our faith in to uphold the law and treat everyone equally fail to do so, then the people will inevitably and eventually take matters into their own hands. This is not to say people will start mobs and attack whoever they believe is guilty, but that the public can and will find a way to make sure people pay attention to injustice and do something about it. An entire group of people cannot be discriminated against and killed without that same group fighting back.
On April 6th, terrifying pictures of children and adults lying on the ground were flooding social media, denoting what The New York Times says is the “worst chemical attack in years” for Syria. At least 70 people were killed, and 100 hospitalized—many of them children. Many were devastated by this, but this news story only got so much attention over the course of the next few hours, and there were little to no following posts with fundraisers or support for Syria. Sadly, Twitter also lacked the typical hashtag go-to of millennials tweeting their support for a country in need.
The same day, much later, social media swarmed with pictures of posts regarding Pepsi. Pepsi recently released a very controversial ad starring Kendall Jenner that unintentionally degraded the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as underestimated the overall issue of police brutality. While this is definitely a massive issue, it is simultaneously acting as a distraction for what we all need to really worry about.
Our generation, particularly the millennials, are infatuated with bringing something down or making fun of people or things that mess up. It seems as though it’s easier to say “Haha, Pepsi is horrible,” than to discuss how scary a massive chemical poisoning is and what to do about it. An ad that does a horrible job of outlining a way to fix an issue is bad, but surely not as problematic as hundreds of children and adults dying from chemical attacks.
Stephen Colbert recently praised Kendall Jenner, reminding us how our country is more divided than ever, “but today, it seems that everyone has come together to join the protest against the new protest ad from Pepsi.” What’s insightful about this is that it does show that the millennial generation will come together and tackle something that we all view as a problem, but it certainly doesn’t display our ability to attempt to solve something in the right way, let alone distinguish what’s important and what’s not.
So Pepsi made an incredibly unrelatable and offensive ad—it happens and, while they at least apologized, this is certainly not the worst possible thing that can occur right now. It seems that anything we can make funny tweets or memes about will get more attention, which is a more mundane approach and interpretation of a situation. However, our perceptions of events in relation to our excessive use of social media are getting a bit out of hand, as displayed by the reactions to Pepsi. While it might seem fun and easy to put down a company for making an awful commercial, there are more important things to focus on that will impact us more than a bad commercial ever will. The Pepsi ad might have offended some people in the short-run, but in the long-run, chemical poisoning and death should affect us even more and could affect us even worse if we don’t act and try to make a change.
As many of you may have noticed, Radford had a very vocal visitor this past week. This visitor has said a lot of hateful things to anyway unlucky enough to walk past him. He’s made students cry, he’s made them shout, he’s made some of them laugh, and made a few so angry they become incapable of moving, because the only move they’d make would be to run up and punch him. It’s true that the crowd formed around him may seem jovial, mostly because of the signs held by those who stand next to him, but if you look more closely you can see the tension his hurtful words cause.
Hate breeds hate, and from what I saw on Wednesday those rallies were one wrong word away from becoming full blown riots. But where does all that hate come from? What could possibly drive someone to shout out racial slurs and condemn whole groups of people to Hell because of the color of their skin? Or to insult a student’s deceased father? It’s not something that you decide to do overnight. Hate must be taught, and unfortunately it’s a very difficult thing to forget.
So what can we do? Not just at Radford, but in our lives and in our futures, what can we do? The answer is simple, we stop teaching hate. We can’t help the generations that came before us, but we can protect those that will follow. Instead of practicing hate we can practice love and compassion. Leave the hateful be, because they have nothing to say that’s worth listening to. When we react out of anger, the hatred only grows.
So next time you see someone preaching hate, do your best to ignore them and walk on by. It won’t be easy, but if you can let your anger go, that hatred will die. Eventually, and I mean in the very distant future, there may even come a time when the idea of someone spending five hours telling college students that their choice in clothing will send them to Hell will be nothing more than a weird story grandparents like to tell. Something on par with “I used to walk ten miles up a hill in the snow every day to get to class.”
So stand strong, and stand together, because we are a powerful generation, and we can end hatred.
If you haven’t seen the crazy Westboro Baptist wannabes standing by the Heth clocks with their children, consider yourself lucky. This group comes to campus almost weekly to spread the word of the Bible in the most insane, cult-like way. They specifically target Radford University because they’re behind a couple years and think we’re still the out-of-control party school we once were. Dear Westboro Baptist wannabes,
On Thursday I, along with my fellow students, stood in the rain from roughly 2 to 5 p.m. We were face-to-face with your group, which seems to be unnamed, as you spewed your religious bullshit by word of mouth. Along with the three adult men of your group, there were a number of small children, a wife, teenage girls, and a newborn baby. It was about 50 degrees outside and rainy all day, which made the conditions unfavorable for such small children to be outside for hours on end.
You held your signs, listing the groups that would be thrown into the imaginary lake of fire. You held your little black Bibles with the word “REPENT” printed in plain white. You yelled at students, including myself, whom you called a “Jezebel.” Virtually any woman who spoke up to your ringleader (the short chubby guy with the anti-porn hat) was called a Jezebel and told to get in her place. Although you claimed that you “loved us” and were only here to save our sinners’ souls from a horrible eternity, we all see straight through your facade.
We don’t know what makes you think we’re an open audience, or that you’re going to change anyone’s mind. If you haven’t realized, it’s 2015 and people aren’t easily scared by threats of hellfire and brimstone. College students these days are more like likely to be atheists now than in the past and therefore, your shouting and threats are going in one ear and out the other.
The people I feel for the most in this situation is your poor, brainwashed family. You use them as an example in order to push your shitty agenda. At one point in your protest, you allowed your son to stand up on a footstool and spew your religious nonsense. Students were just about as kind to him as we were to the adults. The youngest adult male in your group openly admitted he hadn’t gone past the third grade. I’m assuming, since your children were present on our campus during typical grade school hours, that your children are homeschooled. I can only imagine their curriculum doesn’t include a drop of factual science.
At one point as your ringleader stood on his footstool, his wife came and whispered to him. The ringleader then announced to the crowd, “See, men, this is the kind of woman you need– a woman who will submit to you.” I can only imagine the amount of brainwashing that had to take place for that woman to be okay with someone talking about her like a dog. You also told me directly that I needed to find a “Godly” man, but that I would have no luck here at Radford–poor me.
Since World War II, women have been taking leadership positions in the home. When their husbands were away, they took up jobs to keep the family afloat. After their husbands returned, they realized they didn’t mind working and being breadwinners, and many men allowed and encouraged their wives to keep working. Women in 2015 aren’t submissive dolls for you to order around and impregnate every chance you get. Marriages these days aren’t defined by a man and woman in a relationship where the woman is expected to keep quiet and do what her husband says. Marriages these days consist of same-sex, mixed race, heterosexual and various other identities combined with one simple commonality: love and respect for one another.
I don’t know why you’re so insistent on coming to our campus. It’s your First Amendment right to come here to talk about whatever you want, but don’t be offended when we talk back unfavorably. The thing that’s so unique about Radford’s community is that we stand up for each other. When you called me a Jezebel, there were several young men around me who would have loved to step over your (illegal) barrier and knock you down from your footstool. By the way, you essentially calling me a whore doesn’t make you a saint, which you claimed to be several times.
If God were real, and I don’t believe he is, he’d probably not be too happy with you. Believe it or not, I used to be a good, Bible-obeying Christian who walked through life afraid to make a wrong step and displease my overlord. As I recall, the Bible calls good Christians to bring people to God. Your group is doing nothing but making people turn from the church with their middle finger in the air. Groups like yours, you Westboro Baptist wannabes, are the reason so many have chosen to turn their backs on the “kind word of the Lord.” Also, I think you missed out on the bit from the Bible that says “only he who is without sin may cast the first stone.” Because you’re not a saint, I don’t believe you have the right to invade our campus with your hate-speech to judge us for having sex and drinking beer.
You repeatedly say in your rantings that you’re here to save us, yet how many people have actually approached you seeking the Lord? I’m guessing that number is an absolute zero. Obviously your methods aren’t working, and no minds are being changed. There isn’t a place for you here, so why not move on to another audience who will be more captive?
So, please keep returning to Radford. Keep spewing your bullshit and watch as it pours in one ear and out the other. We’ll all be here with our signs in hand, holding pugs over our heads and chanting obscenities. You’re doing nothing but creating a day party for us, where we will continue to support our fellow students, be proud sinners and applaud at your departure.
Remember when being an activist meant you would go out in public and advocate an issue that’s important to you? It was something you could take pride in because it takes time and effort to push social change. Now that Facebook is in the picture, people are able to reach many people without needing to get out of their seat. This is both a good and bad thing for the state of activism as we know it. Continue reading Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Slacktivism→