To the Editor,
Recent articles is both The Post-Crescent and The Lawrentian highlighted a College Avenue protest by Lawrence students against racism and hate speech. The students claimed that insults from passing vehicles have been hurled at them. Since I grew up in Appleton, am a Lawrence alum, and have spent two-thirds of my life living here, I find this news to be extremely disconcerting.
On the other hand, I am not altogether surprised. I have also been on the receiving end of insults from passing vehicles. I have even had things thrown at me, ranging from soda cans to a big chunk of watermelon, simply because I was running or power walking down the street.
USA Today reports that the same problem is happening on other university campuses around the country, and pressure is being put on university presidents to do something about it. The president of the University of Missouri was even forced to resign, when black football players threatened to boycott the remaining games of the season.
But how are college presidents supposed to stamp out racism and hate speech in the surrounding communities? There are vague suggestions about collaboration with civil authorities, but I have not seen anything concrete. For example, is the city council of Appleton supposed to pass an ordinance making catcalls and boorish behavior a crime?
While I am not happy about the presence of jerks in Appleton, I am reassured by the fact that they make up a tiny proportion of the people who live here. Appleton has a growing minority population precisely because people recognize that Appleton is a great place to raise a family.
Short of punishing thought crimes, in the manner of George Orwell’s 1984, it’s hard to see how racism is ever going to be eradicated.
—Brian Farmer, class of 1974