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Spread Love, Not Bias

September 16, 2010

**Disclaimer: Professor Lavaque-Manty has opened up the blog topics to anything pertaining to themes we are studying currently in our PoliSci101 class. While the purpose of this blog post is not solely to discuss King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” I believe that as students and free thinkers, we have the right (and maybe even the responsibility) to incorporate and relate the issues proposed in class to our personal, daily lives. This post is inspired by something real that is actually happening on U of M campus right now.

From his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote to his faithful followers, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This core belief inspired him to move on to his plan of direct action. King’s critics often complained that negotiation would be a better path; however, King counters that “nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Following the same mentality, a new campaign has started in South Quad. Located at the heart of University of Michigan’s central campus, South Quad, one of the largest and most diverse residence halls at Michigan, is home to athletes, Honors students, and scholarship students.  The founders of this group wanted to use their leadership positions and abilities to promote a “bias-free” environment inside the residence hall: eliminating the misuse of terms such as “gay” and “slut,” as well as increasing awareness of the effect and power that words have on other residents. The student leaders of the “anti-bias committee” hoped and dreamed that a change in the attitudes of South Quad residents could eventually lead to an even greater impact. They believed that change is a powerful thing: genuine, heartfelt, and beneficial change can spread like wildfire, affecting everyone it reaches. Following that mantra, the committee voted to make its official theme “Spread Love, Not Bias.”

The necessity of the “Spread Love, Not Bias” campaign stems from the widespread belief among college students that bias incidents are “not a big deal.” One Resident Advisor reported that when she confronted a student about a bias incident involving dry-erase board graffiti, he replied, “Well, none of us are [slur for a homosexual], and it was just a joke.” After many similar encounters, the leaders of the anti-bias movement soon discovered that the negotiation procedure was less effective than they had originally hoped it would be. Therefore, motivated by Dr. King’s similar decision, they changed their strategy to direct action. Using motivational posters, flyers, T-shirts, and buttons, the committee encourages South Quad residents to stand up and speak out against bias incidents. With attention-catching, in-your-face phrases such as “WTF: Why that Frase?” and “Words have impact. Make yours positive,” the Spread Love, Not Bias committee hopes to similarly sensationalize and play up the issue at hand so that it can no longer be ignored.

Following in the footsteps of Dr. King, the South Quad “Spread Love, Not Bias” members will continue to work wholeheartedly towards achieving a completely bias-free community in which all University of Michigan students can feel safe, accepted, and welcome.

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