The Badger Herald published a letter to the editor Monday criticizing Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s public condemnation of Daniel Dropik, a white University of Wisconsin student previously convicted of two racially motivated counts of arson, who has recently come into the spotlight for his attempts to form a Madison chapter of the American Freedom Party, a recognized hate group.
The author argued while people may not agree with Dropik’s beliefs, he is entitled to hold those beliefs and share his opinions as an American citizen. They also argued Blank should be encouraged by the “free expression of ideas” on UW’s campus instead of expressing concern.
Here’s the thing — freedom of speech means people can say what they want, but it does not mean there won’t be consequences. It is vital we do not shy away from calling the so-called “alt-right” what it is: a white nationalist group that blatantly promotes racist, unconstitutional ideologies and policies.
As concepts like “fake news,” “alternative facts” and blatant hatred and ignorance are increasingly normalized and accepted across the country, it’s key that we meet these shocking, hateful ideologies and actions with the condemnation they deserve. We must reject any distinction between the so-called “alt-right” and white nationalism and refuse to legitimize these ideologies by treating them like valid political discourse.
When a UW student who has openly and admittedly committed two racially-motivated crimes is now recruiting students to join his white nationalist club that “fights anti-white racism,” UW students and faculty need to make it clear that we denounce such beliefs and motivations as harmful and completely false.
The idea that there is rampant “anti-white racism” on UW’s campus is not an opinion, it is simply untrue, and treating blatant untruths as opinions only serves to legitimize them.
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White nationalist ideologies, rampant racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism are not valid “opinions” to have. Opinions are things like, “PDR has better pizza than Ian’s,” or “Scott Walker is actually a very handsome man.”
When someone’s “opinion” is that America is a white person’s country and nobody else is welcome here, both citizens who feel unsafe and unwelcome, and those who stand in solidarity with said students, do not need to meet this opinion with an open mind.
Instead, it is our duty to make sure our voices are loud enough to reach those who are feeling scared and unwelcome and make sure they know they are not alone, and that we condemn these “opinions” as untrue, racist and harmful.
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As students, faculty and community members at a University that has already been criticized for its handling of racial issues, we all need to come together and make it clear that we do not stand with Dropik, and we do not owe his racism respect or tolerance.
In fact, each and every one of us, including our chancellor, owes it to minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, women and people of all religious backgrounds to finally stand up to white supremacy — something we have failed to do throughout history — and make it clear that hate will never be tolerated on our campus again.
Julia O’Donnell ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and strategic communication.