Last Thursday, I approached the College Republicans’ panel on the Washington Avenue Bridge to change the ugly (aesthetically as well as ideologically) message on display there. As the Minnesota Daily later reported, I was attacked by a member of the College Republicans and a dispute followed. What the Daily did not report is that Ethan Bunn, a member of College Republicans, called me a Nazi, and I am a queer Jew. Also not reported was how little interest University of Minnesota Police Department showed in protecting students from violent attacks in broad daylight, and equated some paper, tape and sharpie on public property with physical assault and hate speech. These seem to me to be key details.
Here is what the past few days have taught me. The same conservatives who mock progressives as “snowflakes” cannot handle criticism, and their immediate reaction is not discussion and debate, but physical confrontation steeped in toxic masculinity. The University administration showed us last year that it is less interested in defending students from hate crimes by protecting bigots’ platforms of speech. But the campus community steps up.
La Raza Student Cultural Center’s bridge panel exemplifies humor’s role in resistance. Student activists have made it clear once again that racists are not welcome here, that we value our immigrant, black, brown, queer, trans, undocumented, Muslim, Jewish, disabled and marginalized communities more than we are scared of a few bigots with a sign and a student group. Students are working on and off campus to elect progressive candidates and enact progressive policies that value them too.
This campus has a problem with racism — both systemic and social. It has a problem with misogyny, with queer and trans-phobia. It has a problem with Islamophobia. Swastikas and white supremacist propaganda have been appearing here, and this campus has a problem with antisemitism. I should note, though, that criticism of the state of Israel on this campus is not antisemitic, as many have claimed. This campus also has thousands of tough, motivated individuals with the capacity to organize for real change. Solidarity is the answer regardless of the question.
The Minneapolis election is in less than a month — let’s start there. Register, knock on some doors and support your peers who are putting in the work in a million ways. And to the students who feel no obligation in these times to be political, whose comfortable position lets them tune out — which side are you on? There is no more neutral.
This letter has been lightly edited for grammar and style.
Imogen Page is a political science and global studies senior at the University of Minnesota.