Not mentioning the name of the white supremacist who lives in Oakdale – when he’s not in jail or flying off to cause trouble in someone else’s town – was a nice touch by members of the Oakdale community during their anti-hate rally Monday. After all, the aforementioned bigot thrives on notoriety; depriving him of it sends its own message.
While Stanislaus State students have every right to protest, we wish they had taken the same approach as the folks in Oakdale. Instead, they interrupted President Ellen Junn’s welcome-back-to-campus speech, also Monday, to demand that Nathan Damigo be expelled, and thus silenced. Such demands betray weakness, not strength.
Most of the people in the room at Stan State likely agreed with the students’ message. But expelling Damigo – an ex-convict booted out of the military and said to be living with his mother – without cause (failure to pay tuition, cheating, etc.) would be illegal.
Trying to silence him is worse. If we ask our public institutions to silence a bigot, what happens when someone else asks them to silence us? He has a right to speak.
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But so do others. And if they speak more loudly, drowning out his hate, all the better. If they remove the racist litter he affixes to walls at Stan State, well, that’s just cleaning up the campus.
Defending Damigo’s right to speak is not the same as defending him or his message. Even mentioning his name is slightly nauseating. And the ideas scurrying about like diseased vermin in his brain have been debunked by science and held contemptible by people of faith and morals. That said, he should not be ignored.
There are an estimated 920 alt-right or hate groups in America, at least one in every state says the Southern Poverty Law Center. Of those, about 650 are white supremacists or neo-Nazi. Some put their total membership at about 300,000, mostly meeting in poisonous corners of the internet. Unfortunately, membership has spiked since the election of Donald Trump, whom they mostly adore.
Psychologists say those who join such groups have serious issues, like self-loathing. Often having failed in school or at jobs or in the military, they feel powerless to fix whatever it is they hate about themselves, so they try to find something to hate in others. They fear losing what little they have and this fear drives their hatred.
Instead of listening to hate, better we should heed those preaching a different doctrine.
“There are 6 billion people on this planet,” said Rev. Darius Crosby of Modesto’s Greater Glory Community Church. “And every one of them is no less than 70th cousins, so we’re all family whether we like it or not.”
Researcher Graham Coop of UC Davis puts us much closer than Crosby thought. His mathematical models say we’re actually 30th cousins.
“Our challenge in this country right now,” said Crosby, “is reconciliation. ... It’s time we go back to the threshold of everything ugly and own it and then excise it.
“God has made it so simple for us that a fool couldn’t err. That’s the premise of going back to the Garden of Eden. There were only two people there … so who are you fighting against? Who are you mowing down in the street? It’s family.”
The danger in any evil ideology such as white supremacy is that left untreated it can be contagious or metastasize. The antidote is to confront it, stand against it and give it no hint of legitimacy. We can tell those spewing hatred that what they really hate is themselves.