UC Berkeley students banded together on Sproul Plaza on Monday in support of the city’s inaugural United Against Hate Week.
The ASUC Office of External Affairs organized a community tabling event officially named “Pop the Hate,” with opportunities to show support through Instagram photos, free t-shirts and posters. Students had the opportunity to write words of hope on brightly colored balloons while popping balloons with hate speech.
“This is one of those things that just can no longer be ignored. Hate crime is a real thing and to turn a blind eye to it is not only disrespectful but also you start to dehumanize those who are suffering. I’m so grateful that Berkeley is providing these types of support systems to help spread the word. It goes a long way,” said campus freshman and “Pop the Hate” attendee Bella Muñoz.
United Against Hate Week was inspired by Oakland-based nonprofit Not In Our Town. The movement began with the city’s 2017 “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate” poster campaign. In October, the Berkeley Unified School District board passed the United Against Hate Week In Berkeley resolution to address the “alarming” increase in public display of ideas that could take shape as serious forms of intimidation, according to a BUSD letter.
Celebrated Nov. 17-23, this week was created with the intention of bringing communities together to raise awareness of hate crimes, learn how to respond and “build infrastructure to keep it from happening in the first place,” according to the letter.
For those who feel victimized by hate, campus resources are available for students, faculty and staff, according to Sandra Messick, campus communications director for the Division of Equity and Inclusion.
The Multicultural Community Center and the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center are resources for students who “feel targeted,” according to campus junior and organizer of the “Pop The Hate” initiative Laurel Halvorson.
Members of Berkeley College Republicans, or BCR, seek to emphasize that they by no means endorse or believe in the promotion of hate crimes, according to BCR External Vice President and former Daily Californian columnist, Rudra Reddy. Reddy added that he is concerned that hate crimes are too often associated with conservative perspectives.
“The real danger is members of the community using nebulous terms like ‘hate’ to encompass mainstream conservative positions, including placing restrictions on immigration in the national interest, and then arguing for the censorship of those points of view in the interest of public safety,” Reddy said in an email. “It is also a very convenient coincidence that these rallies should fall on the week we are hosting Ann Coulter. Regardless, we are undeterred and the event will go on as scheduled.”
Beyond the ASUC tabling initiative Monday, several other anti-hate activities are set to take place across the Bay Area throughout the week.
Some of the events include an Islamophobia Awareness Workshop, candlelight vigils for transgender lives lost due to violence and a performance by the East Bay People’s Choir.
Halvorson said that although the UC system could still improve on representing and supporting marginalized groups, small initiatives and campaigns such as “Pop the Hate” can keep conversations alive.
“We as a university have recently taken a lot of necessary steps toward building a strong campus climate that is accepting of marginalized students and communities, but we still have a long way to go,” said campus senior and organizer of the “Pop the Hate” initiative Somya Jain in an email. “That is why initiatives like United Against Hate Week are so important – they show that campuses like ours have the power to unite communities and bring about positive, tangible change.”