Columns / Discourse / April 17, 2019

Neutrality provides a platform for violence

On Sunday night, in the middle of a Mob Psycho 100 marathon, I received two images. One was a photo of the piece of graffiti that said “GAYS SUCK DICK” and the other was a photo of the red “fund ivcf!” message written inside of the “YEAH BABY!” tag written in the trans colors.

My stomach dropped. I tried to sit through another episode, but ended up (like many other friends) leaving to go to the graffiti wall. When I arrived, student action had already covered up the hate speech, but I knew that would not be the end.

As an exec member of Common Ground, I’m extremely close to the recent events on campus. As someone with close ties to Christianity, I cannot in good consciousness allow these hateful actions to be associated with Christianity or with religion as a whole. No individual or group of individuals should be held responsible for this hate speech other than those who committed the crime.

However, the Knox chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has continued to be complicit in the homophobic rhetoric of their parent organization. Their refusal to stand up to their national organization or to disaffiliate has left me in a state of conflict; they have, inadvertently or not, provided a platform for bigots. When presented with the chance to prove Knox a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, they chose to remain neutral. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” as Desmond Tutu said. “Silence = Complacency,” as Common Ground’s buttons declare.

IVCF is no longer just complacent. They are now inviting their organization’s Vice President, Greg Jao, to this campus. That is not a neutral action. That is violent.

I’d also like to point out that this conflict with IVCF has never been about transgender people; IVCF USA has no (public) policy or history discriminating against trans people. The act of writing “fund ivcf!” on top of a message of trans positivity exposes the blatant bigotry of the perpetrators. This is no longer simply an issue of policy, of the actual words and actions of InterVarsity USA; it is now an issue of providing space for all kinds of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.

It is not enough for IVCF to condemn hate on campus when they have the opportunity to condemn hate on a national level, as has been requested of them. In fact, those actions only makes sense in the lens of avoiding responsibility. I do not trust the integrity of a public statement made to cover their own asses.

I’d like to say that there’s no room on this campus for hate speech; I’d like to say this isn’t the Knox I know. Sunday night disproved the former, and my experiences with the recent IVCF issues disproved the latter long ago.

I have been asked if there is anything IVCF could do to reconcile, to be forgiven. I will repeat what marginalized groups have been saying for decades: you do not deserve our forgiveness. Actions to correct your own mistakes and to tackle injustice will not win you our love, and we are not obligated to forgive and forget acts of oppression. You have the social and moral obligation to do the right thing. It does not absolve you of guilt.

I am angry. More than anything, I believe, we are angry. The disappointment, sadness and fear of the queer community is not for public consumption, but our anger always has been. This does not stop here.


Tags:  common ground homophobia ivcf

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