Volume 96, Issue 86
Thursday, March 13, 2003

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Western's bathroom walls a haven for hate

As Western students, issues of racism, homophobia and sexism seem like distant, possibly even outdated, problems, that only exist well beyond the bounds of our educated community. It's difficult to comprehend that these issues are actually as present at this university as tuition fees and grades.

We spend hours debating the importance of tolerance, promoting understanding and being politically correct. We reason that the true culprits of hatred are simply uneducated, yet a quick glance around our campus would seem to indicate otherwise.

Nicole Neslon, VP-campus issues for the University Students' Council, embarked on a project investigating how prevalent prejudice of all kinds is at Western. Within an hour, she had her answer.

With the same ease she would have experienced sitting down at a computer to search for a book on Martin Luther King, Nelson found examples of atrocious hate-inspired graffiti within the bathroom stalls of D.B. Weldon Library. One can only wonder what kind of student wanders into the library, and before leaving, states their desire to "kill a homo this year," for all to see.

As the push for more politically correct terms has proliferated, the general trend has been towards selective tolerance. The word "nigger," for example, may have fallen out of our vocabulary, but ensuring the hateful sentiments associated with it must also be dispelled. Political correctness will not end prejudice – tolerance and understanding will.

Change on some level is evident. Everyone, from educators to members of the media, push for acceptance – at least on the surface. It is imperative that people work towards eradicating hate, not because it is taboo, but because they truly believe that tolerance for everyone is inherently necessary.

Sadly, at times it seems like human nature to resort to judgment and hate before questioning and understanding. The tragic events surrounding Sept. 11 are a prime example. What was the default reaction of many "tolerant" North Americans after the attacks? Was it to assume the actions were a random act by a small band of people who don't represent a culture as a whole, or was it to direct anger and aggression at an entire block of people? Racism over reason once again.

People are too quick to equate a lack of visible violence at a place like Western with the notion that intolerance is on the decline. This, in some ways, has made prejudice more potent than ever because it is not something that can easily be identified and dealt with. As Nelson's findings indelibly detail, hate has not disappeared, it has just disguised itself as "harmless" writing by faceless cowards on Western's walls.



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