You would think something called a “free speech wall” would be for just that — free speech. But since contemporary college students’ notion of “free” leaves a lot to be desired, even semi-moderately provoking lingo can result in bouts of self-righteous apoplexy.
At the University of Denver, someone — presumably some white students — crossed out the “White” in a “White people do something” message on the wall, and also painted over the “black” in “Black Lives Matter” leaving the rather innocuous “People Do Something / Lives Matter.”
In addition, Denver’s 7NEWS reports the lyrics of a song by the early-80s punk band Minor Threat criticizing white guilt also were scrawled.
To virtually no one’s surprise these days, some students felt threatened.
It could be subjective to some, but [student Tashan] Montgomery points to the Minor Threat lyrics painted on the walls[:]
“The worst guilt is to accept unearned guilt. I’m convicted of a racist crime; I’ve only served 19 years of guilty of being white. I’m sorry for something I didn’t do, lynched somebody but I didn’t know who. Guilty of being white.” …
“I definitely feel threatened, because if I go to a school, where we can’t even come together to honor dead people, then that really makes me wonder how much students care about students of color here,” he said.
In a letter to the DU community Thursday, the university said it hopes those messages can spur a productive conversation about a complex issue.
“We understand how some may be threatened by the notion that they inherited privileges from prior generations. And yet, that reflection and admission is exactly what we must do if we seek to build a better future for all,” the DU letter read.
Ah, so, while the university is rather accommodating to the notion of free speech here, white students nevertheless must admit that they have privileges before everyone can move forward!
Oh — members of the university faculty painted over the “offensive” messages.
Thankfully, Denver law student Dorey Spotts provides some much needed common sense on all this: “The Constitution really protects us when we say those things, and I haven’t seen anything that is inciting any kind of violence or anything like that.”
She did add, however, that she “is white,” so she doesn’t know “how people who are obviously very few numbered here are going to feel about that.”
The song lyrics from Minor Threat, by the way, are listed among the “Top Misunderstood Songs” by the site Popstache:
“The song was written about [group member Ian] MacKaye’s experiences of being bullied while at Woodrow Wilson High School—a school with a 70 percent African-American population at the time. The song is equal parts apology for the crimes of MacKaye’s ancestors, and frustration with being grouped in with them.”
Read the full report which includes video.
IMAGE: Sam Graham/Flickr