On behalf of the entire Collegian staff, welcome back to all those returning to campus, and a special welcome to those entering for the first time.
This is always an exciting time of year. However, just three weeks ago, 40 minutes west of our campus, white nationalists, white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis demonstrated in the city of Charlottesville and on the campus of the University of Virginia. The crowds had gathered under the guise of a protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, but it was quickly revealed to be a hate rally. One citizen of Charlottesville was killed by a protester, and the racial biases entrenched in the very fabric of this nation were put on full display.
Here in Richmond, we have our own statues and people with hate in their hearts. Ignoring what happened in Charlottesville is naïve and dangerous.
I have read online posts and articles arguing that the Charlottesville violence was an exercise in “free speech,” and therefore must be tolerated. Because college campuses are particularly a focus of the national conversation around the limits of free speech, nowhere does the consideration of free speech matter more than in the pages of our student-run university newspaper.
The most explicit question we at The Collegian are faced with now is this: Will The Collegian open our platform to different views on the issue of racial superiority and white supremacy? I write today to let everyone on this campus know that the answer to such a question is a forceful and unhesitant “no.”
There will be no room on the pages of The Collegian, or in the discussions we hold amongst our staff, for racist or prejudicial views of any kind. The idea that the color of a human being’s skin makes a difference belongs in the garbage, along with many other ideas we have thrown away, because they are useless and cruel. Believing one group of human beings is superior to another because of the pigmentation of their skin or where their ancestors came from is beyond ignorant.
The First Amendment provides for freedom of expression and speech, which in turn enables a free marketplace for ideas. For the record, if someone would like to sell The Collegian racist, ignorant ideas, we aren’t buying.
As a lover and a student of democracy, the free press, and our freedom to express ourselves, I strongly and adamantly refute any and all claims that what happened in Charlottesville was free speech.
Free speech is no longer free when the words perpetuate metaphorical chains — which were once actual chains — on marginalized citizens. If your “free” words imprison others (with fear, actual and internalized oppression, or societal isolation), you are not being an active democratic citizen, you are simply being cruel and unkind: at best, ignorant and uneducated, at worst, bigoted and fundamentally wrong.
But, I am only one voice and The Collegian is only one of the many platforms for expression on this campus. In order to end this cruelty, all university members, leaders and administrators must actively and consistently condemn and ridicule racism and white supremacy wherever it may appear. This condemnation needs to happen wherever conversations about the recent violence in Charlottesville pop up on campus — they cannot be brushed under the rug or put aside for another day.
Let’s not succumb to the dumb, Richmond. Let’s rise above ignorance and hate. I can promise you The Collegian will.
Contact editor-in-chief Claire Comey at firstname.lastname@example.org.