Our View: Change the stereotype, change the discussion

KS Editors

We believe Kent State students can learn from the terrible event that took place in North Carolina last week. It’s time to talk about changing the way we talk about labels.

Three people died last week. They have been given labels: Muslims, students, newlyweds, sisters, millennials, high achievers, volunteers, quiet. Their deaths have also been given labels: murder, hate crime, a misunderstanding.

We may never know what made Craig Hicks shoot three people. We may never know if it was motivated by a hatred for Muslims. We may never know a lot about the sequence of events or emotions involved in that situation. And due to that, we cannot and should not label it a hate crime.

Hicks has since been indicted for murder. Some in the media have labeled him as well: angry, white, neighbor, murderer, paralegal, hero, unstable, hateful. People know what crime is. And most can be a good judge of what hate is (or looks like when it manifests itself). Is Hicks the physical manifestation of the hate often associated with negative stereotypes?

We believe that recognizing and acknowledging negative stereotypes is an important aspect of navigating through college life. We believe that students at Kent State — an institution of higher learning, and one that considers itself a diverse and inclusive community — should be aware of these issues. We believe that the university is a place for students to learn about and experience cultures, including opinions and religious faiths, different than what is currently held by the individual student. 

We challenge the university community, both as an institution and as a student body, to continue teaching students and to continue learning about diverse cultures. Learning to recognize both negative and positive stereotypes commonly associated with diverse cultures is one of the most important things a student and a university can do. We believe that when students — when people — come together to discuss the topics, situations and cultures we either connect with or don’t understand, then constructive conversation can be had. And from that discussion comes the hopeful possibility of deeper, more meaningful understanding, appreciation and change.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of The Kent Stater editorial board.