Tearing Down the Wrong Walls: A Hands-Off Approach to Discrimination
Dr. Frank-n-Furter and crew sang it best when they crooned, “Rose tints my world and keeps me safe from the trouble and pain,” towards the end of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A testament to the life of indulgence he leads in his castle/spaceship on the hill, Frank-N-Furter attempts to blockade the “trouble and pain” of life on Earth.
Unfortunately, I feel the Wittenberg community has started singing in unison with the delusional doc.
Campus was informed via email of the construction and impending demolition of a wall on which students were encouraged to write the stereotypes and judgments they feel they are labeled with every day. Called the “Writings on Our Wall” project, the wall served as a metaphor for the barriers between students built from hateful terms and preconceived notions of each other.
Concerned Black Students (CBS) called for students, faculty, and staff to participate in the wall’s demolition on Oct. 31, stating, “the wall will serve as a representation of breaking down the barriers on surrounding campus and in our everyday surroundings,” and serve as a symbol of social progress.
But do we need a symbol of social progress, or do we need social progress?
It is far easier to defeat the representation of a problem rather than a problem itself. Projects like this only require money to institute, not a backbone or a voice. What is different today about the campus’s thoughts and feelings on discrimination than before the Writings on Our Wall project? Perhaps the perspective of those who participated has changed, but for the vast majority of those who did not? Events like this are a futile outlet for what could be very powerful ideas. The values of respect, acceptance, and compassion can be promoted to a point; but eventually there must be an administrative change that creates real consequences for intolerance and bigotry.
I have no specific plan for bringing about the change student organizations like CBS are making noble pursuits to enact. The key, to me, would be to institute change in policies that truly do affect the entirety of campus versus a select few participants. More severe and less flexible punishments for those found exercising hatred I think would be an effective start, versus slap-on-the-wrist e-mails to the campus and no one in particular. The cliche goes that “actions speak louder than words,” which is my retort towards the apologetic e-mails that are more frequently found in my inbox. But keeping in mind that actions can be just as empty as words ought to redirect the efforts of administration and student organizations to long term, tangible changes.
Metaphors and symbols are not the problem on campus. It is therefore not a solution to tear down renditions of an issue. Time, energy, and resources ought to be allocated to dissolving delusion rather than hiding behind it; as Dr. Frank-N-Furter found out, rose tint could only temporarily keep him safe from the trouble and pain.