Moving beyond digital hate at the University of Illinois

Stefanie Botelho's picture

We've been here before. At the beginning. The start. The re-start. The jump-start of conversations on bias and expression, the reflections on the consequences of that hostility. As if caught up in some twisted nightmare-of-a-"Ground Hog Day," we keep coming back to this moment, this beginning, shaken by something alarming, only to hit the snooze button once again without ever rising and moving forward to a new level of understanding. In effect, it's a nonstarter, if only for lack of follow-through. At least, that's the way it's been.

We had such a new beginning on our campus recently. A forum on assaultive expression: race-and gender-based Tweets. Unsociable media. The challenge we face now is in continuing the conversation - the conversation that will lead to some consensus, he consensus that will lead to change. The change that would seem to be as imperative as it is logical once people come to understand the destructive impact and enduring effect of racist and sexist hate speech.

So far, the response has been mixed. Some feel there is a compelling need for much more discussion of an issue that has affected them deeply, directly or otherwise. Others feel the beginning of this talk was quite enough - case closed, let's move on. Still others are asserting that the campus dialogue never should have taken place - that we have made too much of what they consider merely juvenile behavior. Given this wide range of views, it would seem that even a conversation on the conversation may be enlightening. How are people looking at the same series of events and walking away with such dramatically different takes on it all?

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