Culture · Life in America

Freedom of expression gone wrong

Couple of days ago our university chancellor sent the following email:

To the [campus] Community:

In today’s early morning hours, a disheartening and inexcusable act was committed on our campus when cotton balls were strewn at the front entrance to our Black Culture Center. Those guilty of this despicable action have not yet been identified, but [university] Police Department became involved immediately and is conducting an investigation.  This university is fully committed to tolerance and respect for every one of its members, and this kind of conduct will not be tolerated. I urge anyone who has information related to this crime to contact the [university] Police Department immediately at xxx-xxxx. I also ask you to join me in expressing your own individual concern and support to the members of our community who were the apparent targets. I have been informed that the Legion of Black Collegians is calling a [town] Meeting for Monday at __ p.m., location to be determined. 

[our university] celebrates the diversity of our community. This morning’s behavior offends us all.

________   ________


This disrespectful act was a shock to me because I have been in this campus for five years and I have never heard of such thing before. Scattering cotton balls in front of the black culture center, during the Black History Month, sends a strong hatred massage to this group of people. It is a reminder of a dark era in the history of the US, before the Civil War, when black people were enslaved and forced to work on cotton plantations. This act made our campus enraged by such racial incident.


Cotton balls scattered in front of the Black Culture Center on our campus

To be honest if this hatred is against Muslims I can find a reason, somehow. Some Americans, since September 2001, are living in fear of what the US likes to call a “sleeping cell”. That is Muslims in America one day will kill all Americans when they get the chance. The movie Traitor, released in 2008, exploits this issue in a way to make Americans hate American Muslim. The movie talks about multiple suicide bombing plans to be performed by American Muslims. What was really awful is that those American Muslims shown in the movie were students, doctors, engineers, parents, etc. The movie wanted to teach Americans that their Muslim neighbor is a terrorist. Luckily, the movie didn’t do well because it was an unbelievable exaggeration.

But this is Hollywood. Let me talk about reality. Regardless of its overseas policy1 the United States as far as I know, is the only country in the world that can claim it is openness to all races, religions, colors, and languages.  This is because the many laws they have that take care of almost every aspect of life. For example, do you know that English is not the official language of the United States [source]. In some states, English is the official language and in others it is not [source]. Moreover, states that chosen English as official language made this decision as early as in the 80s and the 90s only.

It was a shock to me first time I learned that English is not the official language of some states. What does that mean? It means that you don’t have to speak English to survive in the United States. A public hospital is responsible, by law, in finding a translator for a patient who doesn’t speak English. In some cases, people over 50 are not required to speak English to get a citizenship. Some cities (e.g., Huston and New Mexico) and states with huge Mexican population have Spanish written where ever there is an English sign.

The term “politically correct” is widely used and practiced here, by many. To be politically correct means not to offend other gender, race, culture, religion, etc. The education system here is done in a way to emphasize the openness to others. Americans don’t ask you where you came from because of the political correctness thing. I am not a fan of the political correct practice because it also means take no action against people who spread hatred. When the Neo Nazi marched in our small college city couple of years ago, the entire city was on the edge. College students received emails from chancellors educating them about “Freedom of Speech”, professors talked about the issue in class, and the residents were well informed and educated about it in the local media. We were reminded that freedom of speech means that everyone got to say what he believes in even if his message is a hatred one, like the Neo-Nazi or the Ku Klux Klan. I remember at that time I was in a class with all foreign students. Our female Texan instructor told us that because of the country’s democratic law and freedom of speech practice the city could not tell the Neo-Nazi that they can’t march in the city.


My point is with all these laws of equality and political correctness in the United States there are people that we can’t understand their mindset. As in any country you meet the bad and the good. There is no such thing as a pure sinless city. Even with education and awareness humans can still be disrespectful to others and worse they can be extremely violent toward the others.

My perspective of relationships between humans is a “Union” relationship not an “intersection” relationship. It means that we don’t need to find common grounds to love each other.  We should value our differences not destroy it.


1 I know many, including myself, don’t agree with the United States overseas politics but I am not talking about politics in this post.


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