Editorial: Responding to hate at Metro State

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When Metro State sent students a safety alert on June 19, it wasn’t about weather-related closures as we have become accustomed to the last two winters.

This time, a hate crime came to campus. That’s something we should never become accustomed to.

On the steps of New Main, a university employee was assaulted because of his perceived race or country of origin.

What will be our response?

We must counter hate with “acts of goodness.”

That directive comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which offers 10 action steps for communities responding to hate crimes.

Good acts can come in small ways. Pick your head up when you’re walking the halls of Metro State. Say hello to everyone you pass. Study and socialize in our common spaces on campus. Use inclusive, respectful language in the classroom and out. Speak up. Listen.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” is more than a bumper sticker slogan.

Those of you taking summer classes (or teaching them), please discuss this incident. What about our society emboldens a person to pair hate-filled words with violence? How can those of us in privilege be allies to those who are vulnerable to the aggression of racists, bigots, misogynists and homophobes?

In the fall 2016, Metro State instituted the racial issues requirement (RIGR) to insure that all graduates understand the racial divide in our world. Our university wants to equip us with the skills needed to confront racism, individually and collectively. And there’s a reason it’s called RIGR. It’s not easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes or challenge privilege and white supremacy.

Please do this hard, necessary work. Pass on what you learn.

There are 28 courses with RIGR designations this summer alone. Students in those classes should know that what they study is not obtuse academics. It is real. It is now. It is here.

The university has scheduled listening sessions about this incident on June 26 and July 2. We need to show up.

Metro State has the largest percentage of both students and faculty of color of any of the Minnesota State universities. That is something to celebrate.

Here, education is for everyone.

Here, we do not hold small, narrow views about our school, much less “our country.”

Here, we respect and acknowledge the importance of life experience, whether that was lived on the East Side of St. Paul or East Africa, Dayton’s Bluff or the Dominican Republic. Metro State was created to serve nontraditional students and tackle problems in a nontraditional way. Let’s not stop now.

Although the issues we face are broad, we should never forget this happened to one person, alone, on a sunny summer afternoon.

To our employee who is healing from this crime, we are so sorry. We are here for you.

Your assailant does not represent our values, our university community or our humanity.