If you are not aware by now, this past week there was an incident in the Free Expression Tunnel that displayed racial and sexual slurs, which left many students upset. This is not the first time that something of this caliber has taken place in the tunnel. A couple of weeks ago, hateful messages were written over artwork done by the GLBT community. This past week, a couple of students organized an event on Facebook where they wanted students to wear black to show support for their dismay of the comments which were left. Some of the dialogue that was left on the Facebook wall was positive and some was negative. However, there was one concern that many students constantly addressed. They wanted to know why the same level of intensity isn’t fueled when other groups, primarily the GLBT community is targeted in hate speech written on the walls of the Free Expression Tunnel. There are a couple of reasons why this might be the case.

One of the reasons may be that race and sexual orientation are viewed on different levels. In the first five seconds of a first time meeting between two individuals, they can immediately assume the race of the other individual. However, they are not always aware of the sexual orientation of the person. It’s not clearly evident when you look at a person for the first time whether they are gay or bisexual. Many times you can tell if they are black, white, Asian, etc. You can hide your sexuality, but you can’t hide race. As color blind as we may say we are, we have to be honest and admit that we do notice it and it does still matter. We should be proud of the race of which we belong to, because it is a part of who we are as a person and it is one of the many differences we hold which differentiates us from other people. On the other hand, people who belong to the GLBT community sometimes have the privilege of being able to let certain people know their sexual orientation if they don’t match the stereotypes. There are many students at this university who choose not to let people know their sexuality and you can’t tell from the surface who is or who is not.  Race is more obvious. When you sit in a classroom, it’s more evident that you’re the only black. You can’t “come out” and announce you’re black, because people already know it. There are also people who debate on whether or not homosexuality and bisexuality is a choice or not a choice. Whichever is the case, sexual orientation is not always seen on the surface.

Another issue may be that many people are afraid to stand up for the GLBT community. The GLBT community might be subject to even more backlash if they staged rallies around campus to speak out against the issue or even subject themselves to hate crimes. It tends to be harder for people who do not belong to the GLBT community to stand up for it, because they fear either being labeled as being a part of it or maybe even issues with religion. Some people say that if you believe in the Bible, you can’t believe in homosexuality. Even though many more people are accepting of homosexuality today, it is still a taboo subject which many people are not comfortable discussing just as much as they hate discussing race. There are many allies of the GLBT community on campus, but because of the potential backlash they remain silent. Furthermore, just because the GLBT community doesn’t protest hate speech, does not mean that they are fine with it. They are just as upset as other groups.

This is not a fight that is isolated to a black or white issue. The goal is to make sure that this campus is a community that welcomes people of all walks of life. While hate speech is hate speech, we must also realize there are complex aspects which can sometimes differentiate specifics categories of discrimination.