Photo and story by Sabrina Tyson / Contributing Writer
Middle Tennessee State University student organization Stand With Love held an event inside the Student Union Building on campus Thursday to fight against hate group ideologies that are specifically targeted toward college students.
Students received pamphlets with information about the organization and were encouraged to write messages of kindness on a chalkboard during the event.
“School campuses specifically, especially with everything that’s been going on with the rallies, we’re at (a) big risk,” said Sarah Larson, a music business and public relations major and a Stand With Love co-founder.
Stand With Love originated as a project for Larson’s campaign class on campus, which teaches students how to market a campaign. However, it soon became a movement with the purpose of spreading love in opposition of hate group ideology.
On Oct. 28, a “White Lives Matter” rally organized by white supremacist groups took place in Shelbyville, about 30 minutes south of Murfreesboro. The rally was intended to move to Murfreesboro, but was canceled before it got off the ground.
There are currently 917 active hate groups in the United States. Thirty-eight of those groups are centered in Tennessee, according to Southern Poverty Law Center.
One of the main groups Stand With Love is concerned about is Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group that aims to recruit college students. Identity Evropa fliers were found in different areas on campus in October. Afterwards, President Sidney A. McPhee made a statement condemning the placement of the fliers and the group itself.
“We strongly condemn the views of white supremacist, neo-Nazi and other hate groups,” McPhee said in his statement. “While we will respect the right of free speech when exercised within the policies of the university, we will also continue to work to make our campus as safe as possible and to advance the values of our True Blue Pledge.”
With 250,000 people being targeted by hate crimes each year according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Larson stressed the importance of having movements like Stand With Love.
“We are at that point in our lives where we can be swayed one way or another,” Larson said. “So, I think it’s very important for this age to reach out and be like, ‘Hey, you should be standing with love.'”
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“There are currently 917 active hate groups in the United States. Thirty-eight of those groups are centered in Tennessee, according to Southern Poverty Law Center.”
According to SPLC statistics, the six leading categories of white “hate groups,” including neo-Nazis and the Klan, have actually declined an average of 44% since 2011. The number of Klan groups are actually at record lows, according to the SPLC.
Conversely, the SPLC also claims that the number of Black and Black Muslim groups actually INCREASED by 44% over the same period, to record highs. According to the SPLC, the largest category of “hate group” in the country today is Black and/or Muslim.
The company counted 201 Black and Black Muslim groups for 2016, which far outnumbers its 130 alleged Klan groups outright, and all of its alleged neo-Nazi, racist skinhead and white nationalist groups by two-to-one, respectively, and even those numbers have been grossly padded for fundraising purposes.
The SPLC also claims that its 101 “anti-Muslim hate groups” pose an existential threat, but nobody in the media seems to believe that the SPLC’s 89 “Muslim hate groups” are even newsworthy. That’s nearly a one-to-one ratio and yet no one is reporting on it because it doesn’t fit the narrative.
If the SPLC are going to be your go-to “experts” then you have to accept ALL of their claims, no matter how patently ridiculous they are.
Though I understand the need for some people to gather in order to be seen protesting together, I do not understand the purpose of these responses, nor do I notice any actual improvements that these rallies and protests actually make. The only thing these major showings of response do is strengthen the resolve of those who already have a firm place in their understanding of being protestors. A white supremacist has never, nor will never, stop being so because a few people protested somewhere and called them names. Historically, protest has been effective because they have been about policy changes or things that can actually make a tangible difference. The more recent protests of feelings or the “feel good protests” do nothing to actually make a difference. “Spreading awareness” is not actually an adequate action. If one wishes to see true change, it comes with the realization that you’re no longer coming after policy, you’re coming after people, and people have the right to say what they want as long as it doesn’t physically harm you.
The only way to meet people like this to actually make a change is to meet them in the field of debate and conversation. Though the groups of white supremacists have the tarnish 0f racism, some of their arguments do have at least a shred of legitimacy. Assuming you want “love” and “peace” that means you want to make peace with the white supremacists, and the only way you’re going to do that is to legitimize the arguments they make that are worth being legitimate. If we work together rather than alienate, we might be able to change the minds of some of those who are lost. Some minds will never change, but one thing is for sure:
Standing around among like minded people protesting to nobody about something that you all agree with without hearing a single dissenting view or differing opinion will not make a difference in todays political climate. Racism is evil, but not everybody you disagree with is a white supremacist. Take a second and listen.
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