There has been a recent news story about some racist and homophobic images and words being painted in the Free Expression tunnel at NC State University. In having a discussion with my staff about what the Free Expression tunnel means to NCSU and how valuable it is to the university, we all ended up in the same place. We all understood that there is, in a way, a price to pay for free speech. The sometimes means having to see things that are intentionally, decidedly hateful.
My closing statement about the discussion was that the Tunnel represents the culture of NC State in some way. The images, statements, and art that appear there are all reflective of NC State’s student culture. I argued that the image that were painted on the walls of the tunnel wasn’t actually free. That image and the thinking that imagined that are locked up in hate. That thinking is locked up in the socialization of race that created a sense of difference, inferiority, superiority, entitlement, and hate that has ensnared our country since it’s “founding.”
That thinking is what needs to change. People need to drop their stereotypes and meet someone who is different from them. We need encounters with each other to understand that these social constructions are ridiculous. The culture is what needs to change.