Costa: Silence is not always golden

Recently, two members of the LGBT community - which includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and questioning individuals - were assaulted on campus. As indicated by the attacker's loud and vicious remarks, they had given the offending party no provocation beyond their apparent relationship with each other and the way they presented themselves. In other words, this was hate, motivated purely by prejudice.

When this incident came to my attention, I gave support to the shaken victims, worked with others to express my outrage and talked to people about it. My conversations, however, proved far from cathartic or comforting; I was frustrated and alarmed to discover that, when I recounted the incident, the first reaction of even my closest friends was of disbelief ("Here?" they asked. "That happens here?"). The second almost universal response was a demoralized resignation: "Well, some people are just ignorant. What can you do?"

What could we do? The answer seemed obvious to me - we could drudge up all those safety and procedure seminars from freshman year and report what had happened. I have never been timid, and have always had a certain faith in the establishment, even in the midst of challenging it to rise to various occasions.

It became clear, however, as discussion continued, that many of my peers did not share this faith: In all of 2007, only five bias-related incidents were reported - one pertaining to race, two to religion, and two to sexual orientation. I know of three incidents within a group of six friends alone. It seems that a lot of people I spoke to didn't see how reporting such things would do any good. They asserted that having it on paper wouldn't change the minds of those who attacked them or of other bigots. Another popular rationale was that people shied away from official action for fear of being criticized for "making a big deal."

Such assertions compelled me to write this editorial, or more accurately, this plea. Reporting bias-related incidents may not magically change the views of the aggressors immediately involved, but it will raise overall awareness and better equip people to deal with similar situations.

On a less tangible level, the more these things get out in the open, the less alone the timid, abused and repressed will feel. Fear will turn to outrage both at their condition and the insistence by some to keep silent. They will start to get a sense of their own power and realize that their feelings and safety are worth every bit as much as anyone else's.

To back up this statement, I cite every major movement in America and ask you to consider the great strides this country has made in the direction of justice. Please, we're not done walking yet. So speak out. The newly founded committee dedicated to stopping hate at Geneseo is an open forum that meets Sundays at 5 p.m. in MOSAIC, the multicultural center located in the basement of the Union. I encourage you to attend.

I would also like to emphasize that this is only one avenue of action available to you as members of the college community who maintain busy personal and social lives. So start asking yourselves: What else can you do to make a difference?

Adele Costa is a sophomore history and English major.