Today is a special day. For some, today marks a break from a grueling 8-hour workday or a four-hour long winter session class. For those less fortunate, stuck at home for the endless wintery abyss that is winter session, today marks an extra hustle and bustle as parents who are normally out at work interrupt your seventeen-hour marathon of The Office. Whether you’re enjoying a relaxing day curled up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa or surviving a house that is entirely too overcrowded for a Monday morning, keep in mind the real reason for the season (or, rather, day): Martin Luther King Jr.
All throughout our childhood, we’ve been taught to play nice. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had school assemblies on tolerance, guest speakers who spoke out against racism and sexism, and enough anti-bullying public service announcements to make me start to seriously question Hillary Duff’s career aspirations. We were told that everyone is important and deserves respect. We were taught that being a bystander to hate is just as awful as enacting hate itself, that it’s mankind’s responsibility to rise up and speak out against bigotry and prejudice, whether it be through institutionalized racism or a bully in a middle school hallway. We had these lessons drilled into us hour after hour, day after day, and I just have to wonder: did they stick?
I was out and about on campus for only about twenty-five minutes today. In that time, I overheard multiple derogatory terms used by passerby over eighty times. It has become a part of our vernacular, girls and guys alike, to tear down those who aren’t afraid to express their opinions or who are comfortable enough with themselves to love freely. Somehow, despite every lesson that we have been taught, misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia have become critical to our daily lives. And it needs to end.
Now, it’s important to remember that nobody’s perfect. Even the best of us occasionally fall prey to the perverse allures of petty insults and talking behind people’s backs, and that’s to be expected. This isn’t a problem that’s limited to UD, either. Our generation has a duty to ourselves to learn from our parents’ and grandparents’ mistakes and stand up to put a stop to such rampant bigotry. We have to help curb hate.
So where do we start? How can we rebel against prejudices that are so deeply ingrained in our societies and in ourselves? This isn’t something that can be eradicated overnight, or even in a lifetime, but if we never try, nothing will ever change.
I’m asking each and every one of you to join me in a pledge. Today marks the beginning of “No Name-Calling Week” by GLSEN. For this week, I will not use any derogatory language or slurs, nor will I tolerate my friends using them. I will be a model of what I hope our world will one day become, and I will contribute to the creation of a safer society. Stand with me this Martin Luther King Jr. day and continue the fight against bigotry and intolerance. Fight for our future.
(For more information on GLSEN’s “No Name-Calling Week,” please visit: http://glsen.org/nonamecallingweek/planning-resources)