I have a friend who was told by a prospective employer that she would not get the job because she is not a Mormon.
I have another friend who published an article examining her personal experience with racism in the course of her education. She got more than a few angry replies. One man accused her of being a “black supremacist.”
I have another friend, a UVU alum, who recently made a visit to our campus. He stopped by the philosophy department to pick up a book he had loaned to a professor. But it was 5:30 p.m. and the offices were largely empty. UVU Police saw a Hispanic gentleman walking around a building that was empty, but not closed. They harassed him for the better part of a half-hour, demanding his ID, demanding that he stay and talk to them, despite the fact that he had done nothing wrong and, by the police’s own admission, was not being officially detained under suspicion of a crime. His Caucasian friend was all but completely ignored by the authorities, although he stood next to my Hispanic friend the entire time.
I have heard that there were people who could not buy tickets to our campus’ recent showing of “The Vagina Monologues,” but not because they were sold out. Certain individuals working for the Student Center were offended by the play and therefore took it upon themselves to prevent other students from going by deceitfully informing them that tickets were “unavailable.”
I know of a homosexual individual who recently ran for a position in Student Government. He found himself the unfortunate target of a hateful anonymous email. The missive instructed its recipients to help prevent him from winning, based on the erroneous idea that his sexual orientation would render him mentally, morally and emotionally incapable to lead.
Here’s the long and short of it: No matter how much superficial progress we think we’ve made, the police apparently still profile people based on their race, homophobia and sexism still run rampant and it looks like it’s still okay to discriminate against someone based on their religious beliefs (or lack thereof).
Here’s the bottom line: We can pass laws that supposedly protect homosexuals, minorities, women and people not of the locally dominant faith. But whether those laws will be heeded or even enforced is another thing altogether. We can change what’s legal, but changing what’s legal doesn’t change people’s minds.
And here’s where I’m hoping – praying, really – that a good education will help prevent future atrocities like this.
When I say “education,” I do not mean the education that people get nowadays. I do not mean the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am process of acquiring the minimum credits requisite to graduate and snag a career. I mean “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”
I mean learning to think critically. Not learning how to parrot a professor’s opinions back to him. Not learning how to search for the answers on Google. I mean taking information in, processing it logically and coming to a sound and reasonable conclusion.
I believe that education will save us.
If you are a math major and you’re out to educate yourself, then you leave college not only able to divide polynomials but also how to use apply logic to everyday situations and make sense of them.
If you’re an English major and you get a proper education here, then not only will you know the plot of “Moby Dick,” but you might know how to make connections between two things that might superficially seem disparate.
If you’re a biology or anthropology major who gets an education in addition to a degree, then you might learn to look for similarity where difference might seem overwhelming.
If you walk out of here with an education instead of just a degree, you might learn to recognize why all of those stories I told you are sad, disgusting ones.
And they are sad. And they are disgusting. And some of you agree with me. But some of you don’t. Some of you are going to write me angry letters where you testify at me and tell me that the LDS employer was justified in telling my friend that her lack of faith meant a lack of employment. You’re going to assert that the cowardly miscreant who bullied a homosexual via an anonymous email is protected by the Bill of Rights and that I don’t believe in freedom of speech. You’re going to tell me that cops work hard to serve and protect us and I should trust their judgment, even if their actions constitute blatant profiling.
And I’m going to preemptively respond by saying that you are the people who are in serious need of re-prioritizing your time here at UVU. You are the people in desperate need of an education.
I’m going to ask you try a basic exercise in cognitive reasoning: the compare/contrast.
If my atheist friend ran a business and told a Mormon woman that her religious values made her unemployable, would you think that was justified?
If a student employee who disagreed with message of UVU’s recently staged Easter pageant deceived interested parties by telling them that tickets were unavailable, do you think that student would still have a job?
If a homosexual sent a letter around school indicating that another person’s heterosexuality was a symptom of mental illness and moral bankruptcy, would you feel that writer was justified?
You already know the answer. If all three of those situations happened, it would be a perfect storm of outrage. That business owner would be roundly boycotted by every LDS ward in Utah County, that student employee would be found out and fired and the Christian Right would be howling for the blood of that letter’s author. They’d probably call it “reverse discrimination,” which inherently implies that A) it’s an even worse form of discrimination from a bizarro universe, and B), if this were regular old garden-variety discrimination, it’d somehow be less of a cause for fuss.
Basically, I’m telling you to do to unto others what you would have done unto you. And it’s a simple concept. It’s six-inch high curb that you have to step over in order to come and join the ranks of decent citizenry. But it’s apparently necessary to tell you that if you don’t like a form of treatment, don’t apply that treatment to someone else. It’s sad that I have to tell you this. It’s even sadder that you’re probably going to crumple this paper up and throw it away and not think about it. It’s sad that your parents, your bishops, beloved cartoon characters, various muppets, your teachers and even Jesus Christ Himself have all told you this and you still don’t get it.
But, I’m holding out hope that education will save you. If you let it.
Maybe, just maybe, if you don’t completely waste your time here at UVU, if you use this university for its intended purpose, then those of you who think this anti-social behavior I’ve described is acceptable will change your ignorant and embarrassing tune. You’ll maybe do some reading that turns you around, or have an experience that flies in the face of your current value system, or even engage in some honest critical thinking on your own time. And you’ll leave here a better person.
Or, you can leave here with a piece of paper. It’s your choice.