Anya Ursu/ Lantern reporter
Beginning Wednesday night while shooting video at the Hoodies and Headscarves event on the Oval, I was thrown into a world of dialogue, protest and non-understanding revolving around hate crimes. Whether or not everyone agrees with me, I absolutely believe the spray-painting of the words ‘Long Live Zimmerman’ on the side of Hale Hall was a hate crime.
The hate crime email alert Ohio State Police issued Friday afternoon read, “The Clery Act defines a hate crime as a criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated in whole or part by the offender’s bias.” The spray-painting on Hale Hall fits that bill.
Whether the actions were done by a student or community member, whether the vandal(s) knew the impact he or she would cause, those things don’t matter. It is not a coincidence that the hateful speech was tagged onto the side of the building which houses the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center. It is not a coincidence that hateful symbols and a hateful word were spray-painted over a mural of President Barack Obama. These were deliberate acts of hatred.
As a journalist, it is exciting to cover big stories like these protests. It is exciting because I got a firsthand look as actions unfolded and emotions were high. But as a human being, diving into this story was eye-opening for me.
Whenever I decide to plunge into a news story, whether I’m covering it or just following it, I become a little obsessed. I pay attention to every detail of the story, try to read every article and take in as much information as possible. I don’t miss much when I care about a story.
That is probably why, while leaving the sit-in at the Ohio Union Friday after covering the event, I overheard a girl say to her friend, “Everyone thinks since we’re Ohio State we have to get involved in every national thing that happens. Can’t we just … not?”
My answer to her would be no. We can’t ignore the world around us. That breeds ignorance. Should we ignore hateful words painted on our campus and community buildings? Should we choose to not react, and project the image that we don’t care? No.
The protests that have dominated the news around campus are not just about Trayvon Martin. The protests were sparked by an action committed in relation to Martin’s case, yes, but the protests on our campus revolve around a deeper issue of inclusion versus tolerance. The message the protesting students want to spread is one of unification as a university.
On my Twitter feed Friday, I noticed a boy who had tweeted that the protestors had nothing to be upset over, that the spray-painted words did not affect them in any way.
In my opinion, this is exactly why the attention to the protestors and their goals of raising awareness of hate crimes and inclusion, not just tolerance, is so important. I wish everyone had heard the two students speak at the trustees’ meeting Friday, because maybe they would understand the message a little better, whether they support it or not.
The protest at the trustee’s meeting was not hard for me to write about. The part that was hard was reading comments on articles, including my own stories, which attacked everyone from the protestors to OSU students and staff to The Lantern itself for multiple reasons. Maybe the trick of being a journalist is learning to ignore negative comments about your articles or your organization as a whole that don’t have any real merit.
That being said, I think race is a touchy issue. I often think people are afraid to express their opinions for fear of sounding racist. I wish we didn’t have to worry about that. Maybe one day we won’t. But I think for now, people should focus on raising awareness for the issues that are important to them and working to fix the laws that allow people who are potentially in the wrong to slide through the cracks. While I think the Stand Your Ground laws should be under review, I am proud to see OSU students stand their ground.