Before criticizing intolerance, students should look inward

Column by Zachary Kiser

Everyone who has walked around the UK campus for any amount of time has had a run-in with, or heard the rhetoric of Brother Rick. Last week was the first time that I actually stopped for any amount of time to listen to what he had to say. After about 20 or so minutes, I decided I’d had enough and began to make the walk back to my dorm.

On my way back, I began to reflect on the whole ordeal and I came to a strong conclusion: Though what Brother Rick says is intolerant, misogynistic and hate-filled, we as UK students are more like Brother Rick that we would initially think. We would like to think that we are more loving, supportive, accepting and open-minded than Brother Rick, but when faced with an opposing viewpoint like his, those qualities we espouse to have quickly fade away.

The same people that would tout their tolerance and open minds did not meet Brother Rick with such accord. Instead, he was met with rude comments, snide jeers and an overall atmosphere of contempt. I walked away from the crowd no longer disgusted by Brother Rick, but rather disgusted at my fellow students.

Our generation tries to pride itself on its tolerance and the acceptance of the views and lifestyles of others. Yet when we are given the perfect opportunity to put the proverbial money where our mouths are, we fail miserably. We as a generation and as a campus need to realize that tolerance, and ultimately acceptance, is a two-way street. How can we expect others to garner any credibility for the cause of tolerance and acceptance when we are so intolerant ourselves?

Brother Rick is only the tip of the iceberg in this mountain of selective tolerance and acceptance. When was the last time you reached across the social aisle and made a connection with someone like Brother Rick, or anybody else that you deem to be different?

The majority of people would answer this question with a timid “I don’t remember,” and some just wouldn’t answer at all. Yet I dare say that the majority of people can remember the last time they judged someone within the first five minutes of encountering them. The reason such a rift exists between the two is very simple: the first action happens sparingly when compared with the latter.

To fix this trend, we must be prepared to sacrifice what is necessary to achieve our goals of toleration and acceptance. Our generation must wage an all-out assault on hate and intolerance. Sadly, confrontation in the traditional sense will do nothing to stop the onslaught of hate.

Instead, we must use the weapon of education to combat of hate. However, we must be careful not to sacrifice the values of free expression and speech, even if that speech includes hate. A realization needs to be made early. We need to realize that no matter how much we educate, hate and intolerance will never be fully stamped out.

We need to show respect, tolerance and acceptance to those who would not do the same for us. By doing so, we will rise above the fray and bring new life and power into our society.

That brings me back to Brother Rick. He is a human just like us, he bleeds just like us and his feelings can be hurt just like ours. We as a campus and as a generation can greatly further the cause of tolerance and acceptance by accepting, tolerating and loving those who do not do the same for us. Will you make a stand and fight this?