What are we trying to accomplish?
Let us all acknowledge that broadcasting the days since the last bias incident in South Quad Residence Hall was unsuccessful. The tactic resembled a junior high achievement goal: If we can collect $200 in bottle returns for the food drive everyone gets a pizza party! If we can have zero bias incidents in three weeks everyone gets … oh wait … we’re in college.
The question I ask is what is the goal here? Is the goal to change the bigots at Michigan? That would be unrealistic. Is the goal to combat prejudice? That is a stretch. Posters, slogans and banners won’t erase the prejudices of a bigot, but they will make an ignorant teenager stop and think about how their words affect other people. Prejudice isn’t “a swastika on a whiteboard or a friend dropping the word ‘gay’” but ignorance is. The way to combat ignorance is to educate.
A bigot will look at those posters and shrug it off. An ignorant teenager will look at those posters and think, “Hey, I use that language, and it has become a habit that I need to stop.” If one out of every 50 students who are exposed to those posters stop and think about their language, I would consider the campaign successful. The goal of the Residents Hall Council’s anti-bias campaign should be to educate. It’s that simple.
A campus committee isn’t going to solve prejudice on Michigan’s campus. But I shudder to think of what would happen if every campaign decided it was better to do nothing than try something, no matter how small. If the best we have to offer is clever T-shirts and good intentions, then by all means, bring on the slogans.