Alex Blaze

UC-Davis students plan to keep hate graffiti up

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 02, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: berkeley, California, graffiti, LGBT, uc davis

Tobi Hill Meyer posted about a swastika that was spray-painted into the carpet at the University of Oregon's LGBTQA center a month ago, and this weekend anti-gay graffiti was found at the LGBT Resource uc-davis-grafitti.jpgCenter at the University of California Davis campus.

The graffiti at the Davis LGBT Center drew comment from students who said such incidents are rare on campus.

"You don't normally hear about hate crimes here at Davis," said Giselle Camarillo. "That's just really surprising."

It may not be that common, but it does seem to be on the rise with the incidents at the University of Oregon and the other at the University of Notre Dame. Obviously, they're not connected in any direct sense, other than to show that homophobia is still alive and well among the Millennial generation. You know the Millennials, the youth who got Obama into office with nothing more than the power of their belief in liberal utopia, their love of diversity, and Facebook.

Anyway, this part of the story does give me hope:

A letter from the center's staff on the door vowed to leave the graffiti up as a reminder that intolerance still exists.

Good for them. It shouldn't be immediately taken down. People need to see it.

There's usually a strong urge to censor after events like these, and I use the term "censor" not to mean people being denied the right to free expression, but more to refer to the way people like to clean up the environment around them so that they can live in a fantasy land where everything's alright.

No one likes that more than the lukewarm members of the dominant class of any axis of identity. They may be sympathetic to the discrimination others face, but they'd much rather pretend it didn't exist, that America's post-racial, that anti-gay bias is over, that gender equality's already been achieved.

It's easier for everyone to believe that, and too often the rest of us go along with them because:

  1. we believe that people might actually believe the messages they see because they're too stupid to interpret it correctly, and
  2. we secretly believe they're right.

One of the obstacles we face when trying to fight hate and prejudice is how easily people are let off the hook for their beliefs. Sure, they might not support same-sex marriage, but that's just because they have traditional values, not because they're homophobic. Someone might be opposed to even basic affirmative action programs like a large employer participating in a job fair in a minority neighborhood, but that's just because she's against reverse racism. Somebody might protest in front of Planned Parenthood and shout at women going in, but that's just because he truly believes that a fetus is a human life, not that he has a problem with women's independence. And a commentator might belief that we should split the LGBT, but it's all about political strategy and has nothing to do with transphobia.

As Ta-Nehisi Coates put it:

This is a country--like many countries--which is deeply riven by ethnic bias, and gender discrimination. And yet we don't seem to know any of the agents of that discrimination.

These slippages in the system are blessings on some level. Why can't we still get the ENDA through Congress? It's partly because of people like those at UC Davis who think that "LGBT" is a fancy term for "fags," and some of those people, unlike those students at UC-Davis, are politically powerful.

There is still plenty of discrimination against LGBT people, and it happens because people actually believe that we're defective. It isn't too controversial of a statement to make on an LGBT blog, but as I read through everything Google News dredges up every day under the terms "gay" and "transgender" and "bisexual," it's surprising how many straight people are willing to let other straight people completely off the hook for their beliefs and pretend that there's no connection between favoring discriminatory legislation and holding prejudiced beliefs.

Cleaning it up right away would have been the easy solution that would have focused fewer people's attention on the problem at UC-Davis. But we can't pretend that everything's alright and come together for some kumbaya when there isn't justice, and the our love of cleaning up reality has never been known to bring justice.

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Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | March 2, 2010 10:16 AM

There was a noose hung at UCSD a couple of weeks ago in a direct reaction to black history month. Such expressions of hate on college campuses are becoming all too common. The young Republicans are becoming the young, militant Republicans. And for those who are about to cry "foul" because I said Republicans, please. Give it a rest. It isn't Progressives doing any of it.

Leave it up, definitely. Take strength that hateful graffiti by taking its power away. Own it. They can never hurt you if you do.

I'm so with you about straight people (and even some gay people) letting straight people's prejudices about GLBTs slide like that.

From my experience, that's one of the most maddening things: Trying to reason with someone who says in one breath, "Sure, I think homosexuality is immoral, but I oppose gay marriage because I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman" but sees nothing wrong with declaring an entire group of people immoral, let alone any connection between anti-gay prejudice and preference for anti-gay policies. These are often the same people who subscribe to "love the sinner, hate the sin" bullshit.

A. J. Lopp | March 2, 2010 2:53 PM

Whether we like it or not, anti-LGBT hatred and oppression is a part of our history (and to a lesser extent, our present) and, although it may be impossible to write history with total objectivity, I also do not believe in re-writing history or expunging it. I think it's a great idea if the students at UC-Davis want to leave the graffiti up as evidence of what they are working against.

Other groups have had this similar argument. The controversial mural by Indiana artist Thomas Hart Benton that includes a vignette of KKK klansmen comes to mind. This mural hangs in Woodburn Hall, Auditorium 101 on the IU-Bloomington campus. From time to time, groups of black students will present protests against the mural, the last being only four years ago:

Indianapolis Star, Feb. 19 -- Four years ago, there was a race issue at Indiana University, but it had nothing to do with the basketball team. The IU Black Student Union protested a mural depicting state history that includes an image of the Ku Klux Klan. Created by Thomas Hart Benton for the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, the 12-foot-by-12-foot mural has hung in Woodburn Hall since 1941.
[link for above quote] - [See the mural here]

Although I respect the sensibilities of the black students, I also must point out that the KKK is an integral part of the American past that cannot be edited out of our history, or even out of Black History Month. These stories of past horrors need to be told, not censored out of existence, so that future generations appreciate the life-and-death seriousness of the racial problems in early America.

The reality of LGBT prejudice must be treated the same. Retaining the graffiti is not that much different from making the story of Matthew Shephard a permanent part of our history.

Richard Hoffman | March 2, 2010 7:35 PM

The Noose at UCSD was revealed to be a hoax. I would be not surprised if this "hate crime" turns out to be a hoax by the LGBT, they have been pretty active around campus complaining about their lack of funding. By the way it was a progressive that hung up the noose at UCSD.

People definitely are hesitant to believe that bigotry exists in it's extremes. Words or prejudices, sure, but actions like these are almost unbelievable to some folks. Literally so. Many people at the UO have been spreading the idea that the LGBTQA staff did the graffiti themselves as a publicity stunt. They find that a more believable explanation than the fact that neo-nazi's did it. Despite the fact that Eugene's neo-nazi's have been implicated in several similar hate graffiti attacks and even a shooting or two since I've lived here.

But no. We all live in a magical post-race, post-prejudice world where things like this don't exist -- so it must have been an inside job.