One year ago, Berkeley erupted. The rage in the air was palpable. After all, America had just voted in a president whose campaign repeatedly and aggressively framed women, disabled people, undocumented immigrants and many others as subhuman.
A year later, the atmosphere is unrecognizable: marginalized students and Berkeley residents face unabashed bigotry. White supremacists stalk through the city. Racist, sexist, homophobic slurs are hurled at passersby. The campus is often choked by a heavy, and expensive, police presence.
Donald Trump sailed into the White House on a campaign that condoned hate speech: White nationalists have become empowered, and with their rhetoric has come a real and present threat to the livelihood of thousands of people. Phrases such as “Illegals, ICE is coming,” and “build a wall, deport them all,” were chalked on Sproul Plaza in September. A photo of Milo Yiannopoulos, who harrasses transgender students and says “feminism is cancer,” leered from a bus stop by Cory Hall.
The conversation about free speech that has exploded once again on college campuses since Nov. 8, 2016 often misses the point: Just because the first amendment protects hate speech doesn’t mean hate speech should be considered normal or accepted.
Beyond ushering in a regressive social and political culture shift, the Trump administration enacts policies that deeply harm members of the Berkeley community. He announced the repeal of DACA, throwing thousands of undocumented UC students into limbo. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolled back Title IX protections for survivors of sexual violence. Trump’s new travel ban, which discriminates based on national origin, is now on hold after a judge’s ruling, but students fear an uncertain future.
One year ago, The Daily Californian editorial board wrote that the Berkeley community must “rally behind communities in any and every way possible.” And it has. The Undocumented Student Program helps spread information related to DACA renewals and appeals, as well as direct students to legal counsel. The local NorCal ACLU chapter is offering funds for groups to host speakers that better reflect the values of this campus.
Administrators like Carol Christ and Oscar Dubón need to follow the lead of student leaders who have set an example in standing up to bigotry. City officials, too, like Mayor Jesse Arreguín and City Council need to drive our city to live up to bold, compassionate standards.
The bigotry, discrimination and hate that has launched into the mainstream is not normal. It cannot be normalized. But if any community is positioned to fight back, it’s Berkeley. In the words of the Berkeley High students rallying on the steps of Sproul Plaza the day after the election: We’re here to fight, and we’re here to stay.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.