When I was a senior in high school, someone taped several pieces of paper with swastikas drawn on them to my locker.
I was the Editor-in-Chief of my school’s newspaper.
Oftentimes, I would use the opinions pages of our paper to write about human rights, specifically things like the feminism movement and LGBTQ+ equality. This was deeply personal to me, as I identify as a woman and am openly bisexual. I loved to use my platform to discuss the history of these movements and how students could get involved with them at a young age. For the most part, my articles were well-received.
But a select few students, who self-identified as conservatives, hated my articles and, by extension, me.
I would regularly find copies of the newspaper in the garbage. I was attacked online. Angry jabs were shouted at me in the hallways by the kid in the Confederate flag sweatshirt. “Fake news!” was a phrase that I heard and read often.
I didn’t do anything about what happened to me. I didn’t report it to any administrators or teachers. I didn’t think that anything positive would come of it, so I just dealt with it by ignoring the problem, and, eventually, I graduated. I went on to study journalism here.
And now, I find myself in similar predicaments. The situation I am in in 2021 is a mirror image of the situation I was in then, but I am a far different person. And before I graduate from this place, I am reflecting.
As Editor-in-Chief, I am one of the moderators for our newspaper’s website. This means that I read and approve or disapprove comments. I read the mean-spirited and angry comments that are often left on my articles, and usually, I approve them. I am okay with criticism, even if it is disrespectful in nature. None of my online hate comments have ever attacked me on the basis that I am a woman or that I am not straight.
I make similar judgment calls when it comes to what we publish in The Globe. The newspaper’s contents are a necessity to the student body. And the people who write them do so from a position of authority and credibility. During my time on staff at The Globe, specifically in the ‘Opinions’ section, some things have been published that have been hurtful to certain students, oftentimes, based on those students’ race, sexuality, or gender. And the excuse for publishing these things has been that we need to protect the author’s first-amendment rights and avoid censorship.
But when I took over as the Editor-in-Chief of The Globe, I pledged to rectify this and to make The Globe a safe and equitable workplace for everyone. How could I do this when my copy editors of color were being forced to read hurtful content? Or when my editors in the LGBTQ+ community were forced to read homophobic statements?
I couldn’t. And I understand that I cannot protect my staff members from reading hateful things out in the world or in comment sections across the Internet, but what I could do was protect them from reading them in the pages of The Globe, a student newspaper that they were not getting compensated for participating in, and an extracurricular activity that they found enjoyable and comforting.
And I could protect the student body of Point Park from having to read content that invalidated their experiences and their lives. Why would I be okay with letting students of color read content that was offensive? Why would I be okay with letting students who identify as being queer read that some students did not agree with their identities? Why would I let my newspaper perpetuate ideas of hate? Why should I stand for it any longer?
I’ve stood for it long enough. Too long I have let these things pass, fall away like water under the bridge, because I was too scared to stand up for what I believe in, which is love and acceptance of everyone no matter their skin color, religion, sexuality, gender identity or anything else.
I have always considered myself to be a good ally. But I was not being a good ally by giving into my fears. I was not being a good ally by entertaining the idea that discrimination is ever acceptable or okay.
Even if that’s what the Constitution, written by a group of slave-owners in the 1700s, says.
Laws are meant to be challenged and revised. I have accepted this, and I have accepted that in order for my journalism to contribute positively to this world, I must reject hate and discrimination at every opportunity. It does not deserve my consideration. Opinions pieces with conservative viewpoints within them are okay, so long as they do not advocate for discrimination. And conservative authors should consider if they are unable to write a piece that does not advocate for discrimination, whether or not their beliefs were based on facts and logic but rather, hate. This is the conclusion I have reached.
This is the reckoning that journalists must face, and it is the reckoning that I want this industry as a whole to experience. But it all starts with me.
This is the result of my reflection.