Stand Tall, If You Hate Hate *** OPINION
Recent years have seen action by marginalized groups taking a stand against injustice, be it: racism, xenophobia, harassment, corruption, etc. Across a multitude of issues, if people feel they are being wronged because of who they are, other groups of people (or should I say groups of othered people) are leading the charge to call out their oppressors.
Broadly, Black Lives Matter and #metoo address myriad issues affecting their constituencies and, in more focused way, the West Virginia Teachers’ strike, the Burgerville Workers Union, and reporting by PCC’s The Bridge/PSU’s Vanguard/Street Roots have channeled the voices of marginalized groups to demand change and to publicly take a stand against the injustices perpetrated by people in power over vulnerable “others.” By taking a stand, we all declare that “they” are “us” and “we” are “them”; that there are no “others”, only neighbors.
And the response to these stands has been consistent: oppressors call foul, supporters throw their fists in the air, and those in between usually sit silently on the sidelines while the “extremists” disturb their orderly peace. Yet their silence is not without consequence. Silence is the absence of sound, but in this case, it surely isn’t absent of meaning.
Silence empowers oppressors who see nothing wrong with their loathsome behavior. Silence alienates peers and would-be allies who cannot put faith in people unable to decide whether the negative consequences of oppressive behavior and institutional discrimination are “unethical.” And while they philosophize from their ivory tower or their armchair and wax poetic from their coffee shop pulpits or in press releases over the “appropriateness” of taking a stand, they embolden oppressors who discount the complaints of marginalized people as the actions of “entitled, whiny, snowflake millennials.”
Is rape wrong?
Is harassment wrong?
Is lying wrong?
Is stealing wrong?
Is exploitation wrong?
If you answered “yes”, then stand tall and stand proud with your siblings that are fighting daily to remove the yoke of implicit and insidious bias and discrimination.
If you answered “no”, then I hope you’re never in a minority so you don’t have to resign yourself to “turning the other cheek” or “rising above” or “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” whenever you make any commentary on whether the system is rigged against you. Fortunately, as an individual, freedom of expression is a right that is Constitutionally protected.
Institutions, however, especially those that serve a broad swath of the community, have a greater responsibility to the community members they serve. PCC is one such institution whose stakeholders include people from diverse cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, some of whom have competing or opposing opinions. So when the free speech of one group collides with the safety, security, and well-being of another, what is the correct course of action? What about if PCC had already publicly vowed to support and protect one of those groups? The PCC Board of Directors recently passed a resolution to designate the college as a “sanctuary college”, but how far does that go?
The Bridge reported on the shady tactics used by petitioners from Ballot Access LLC at Sylvania this January. Street Roots and The Vanguard reported similar behavior on PSU’s campus and throughout parts of Portland. Yet despite the exposure by all of these publications of the unethical and illegal actions taken by the petitioners in question, PCC took no meaningful action. Sure an “investigation” was conducted, but it concluded before any response from Ballot Access LLC could be ascertained.
Administration officials merely left an email and a voicemail with Susan Mayes of Ballot Access LLC asking her to advise petitioners not to misrepresent their petitions because that “is against our college policy” and ‘threatened’ that they “could be asked to leave.” I only hope that Dr. Lang at least left angry emojis in her email to Mayes so that she could tell it was a complaint rather than an apology.
PCC seems more concerned with the perception their stakeholders have of them, rather than standing with the community members they claim to support, which has the feeling of throwing a benefit without designating a venue, without bringing refreshments, and without even showing up to orient the guests to its purpose.