I have a low tolerance for stupid and hate, both of which are embodied in organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan and other affiliated white nationalist groups. It seems silly that I, or anyone else for that matter, would ever have to make a statement like that or that it would be so difficult to condemn such groups, but if 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t assume anything.
To use a bit of pop culture, in the renowned football movie “Remember the Titans,” a 2000 film about racial tensions between a recently integrated football team, a black football player said, “Attitude reflects leadership.” It’s a simple statement that carries so much weight in its truth, specifically applicable in our country’s leadership today.
President Trump and his administration inherited a country in the middle of a racial unrest. A pivotal time that required, and still requires, calculated moves to solve the issue at hand while unifying the country. Unfortunately, our president is not a man who tends to demonstrate the self-control needed to tackle such a task.
The president’s leadership on divisive issues tend to be based in hate and prejudice targeted towards a demographic who wouldn’t know any different from what they are told. He encourages their hate and while simultaneously perpetrating violence. Prior to the Trump administration, I can hardly remember a time where the KKK or white nationalist groups were relevant outside of a history lecture, but our because the president does not uphold American values in his leadership, such as his inability to condemn hate groups, we have unfortunately seen an increase in such unacceptable behavior.
If attitude truly reflects leadership, then how has America’s attitude towards racial inequality and tolerance of hate reflected the leadership displayed by President Trump? America’s attitude can be seen in the blind eye towards police brutality of black men, in the lack of respect for our flag, in the intolerance of those who are different from us and in so many other ways.
One thing I have always taken pride in as a student at East Tennessee State University is our level of inclusiveness and supportiveness in one another no matter the difference. President Noland and our faculty here at ETSU lead us by examples of kindness and inclusiveness, and although 2017 has taught us not to assume, I would bet they expect nothing less than for us to live up to the high standards they have set for us.
On Thursday night, ambiguous flyers related to a white nationalist group based in California, called Identity Evropa, appeared on campus in the D.P Culp University Center and, according to the Johnson City Press, dozens of similar flyers were found at Middle Tennessee State University. The flyers found both here at ETSU and MTSU were immediately reported and condemned by the universities. It is unclear whether or not students are affiliated, but ETSU is continuing to monitor and investigate the situation.
We, as a people and student body, should not passively wait to take action. It should not take a tragedy perpetrated by hate to unify us now. No matter the severity, this type of behavior and hate group has no place at our school, in our state or in our country. It may seem like a daunting task to stand tall and be the change in the world when the world seems against you, but if we start here at home, at ETSU, and condemn hate displayed towards others, we can prevent tragedies to come and potentially change the world as we know it.