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Eliminating hate and hostility with dialogue

Recently, UMBC had a heartbreaking reminder of the intolerance and hate that still exists in the community in the midst of an extremely fractured and contentious time in American political history.

The staff of The Retriever strongly condemns any acts of hate or intolerance. These heartless acts only result in increased tensions, misunderstandings and brokenness in the community. When blatant acts of hate like these occur, many wonder how this could be taking place in this modern age.

The only plausible explanation is that humans are naturally resistant to change. If something or someone that is different from what they are accustomed to presents itself, many will feel threatened. In order to make themselves feel better, they lash out in hurtful ways, attempting to establish their superiority.

The question then becomes how can the community remedy this issue of hostility towards difference. The solution is to give these individuals what they have likely been sorely lacking for the majority of their lives: exposure to others.

The efforts of the Mosaic Center, Women’s Center, Student Life and other entities on campus that regularly host events celebrating the diversity of UMBC in countless ways help contribute to this exposure to diversity. These organizations should continue sponsoring events that allow for open, honest dialogue. There has been incredible fascination and learning that takes place at these events, particularly at the interfaith forum in spring 2016 and the recent Pangea Cultural Showcase.

But this can be taken a step further. Now that many have become aware of cultural differences, it is time to hear from the experts. UMBC departments, such as the Department of Political Science, Gender Women Studies, African Studies, or Asian Studies, could organize a talk series with professionals across disciplines to shed some light on where these hostilities between groups came from, how it affects our society and what the community can do to begin remedying them.

“You’re always going to be impacted by comments by what those people say, but brave spaces call us to be vulnerable and practice generosity and forgiveness,” said Women’s Center Director, Jess Myers.

“I think part of the problem is that people want to be in dialogues, but they think, I want to change your mind, and the other person thinks, I want to change your mind. You’re coming in with close-mindedness, but brave spaces are about a self-reflection of how am I showing up in this space, and how can I listen better.”

In the spirit of embracing all ideas, UMBC could go further in welcoming those from across the political spectrum to speak on campus. While statements and acts of intolerance are never welcome, those with diverse viewpoints on a variety of issues certainly should be. Perhaps another motivation for hateful acts is the frustration with the one-sided arguments that often occurs with campus dialogue. While extremism is no counterpart to liberalism, those who commit these acts may not truly feel this intolerance, but rather become frustrated with an environment where their opinions – whatever they may be – do not seem to matter.

To remedy these acts of intolerance, this campus needs to foster dialogue between diverse groups of people to increase their exposure and receptiveness to others.  The suppression of ideas should not be allowed to lead to extremism. Those with opposing ideas should be able to express themselves freely, granted that they are not provoking violence or hatred. Most of all, everyone needs to strive to open their minds and hearts to connect with their fellow Retrievers — and fellow humans.