It is common for controversial conversations to take place on any college campus in America and for students to walk out of the library at USF and hear language that is specifically designed to get a rise out of people.
For many, the right to free speech given to them in our Constitution is used not to convince anyone of anything, but instead to intentionally infuriate people who are rightly outraged by their controversial remarks. Such remarks may be racist, sexist, xenophobic or homophobic.
For most people, it is not worth engaging. A screaming match is exactly what these trolls are seeking out. However, when the language is designed to harass, intimidate and terrorize marginalized communities is when good-meaning people have a responsibility to speak out.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the neo-Nazi group, Patriot Front as a white-nationalist hate-group.
Patriot Front flyers have recently been placed on display around campus, specifically in the areas near the Collins Garage and the Student Services Center. The group is most well-known for their association with the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that ended with the murder of a counter-protester.
The group tries to obscure their white supremacist views by shielding themselves with imagery of patriotism that is often seen as inoffensive. Phrases used by the organization like “Keep America American” are designed to deliver their toxic brand of white supremacy in a palatable format.
They also featured a call to action to report any suspected undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a move that could intimidate students from different cultural backgrounds.
According to the FBI, 2017 saw a 17 percent increase in hate crimes nationwide. In a time where we are seeing an increase in racial violence, college campuses need to be vigilant of groups that hold these kinds of views.
When Dean of Students Danielle McDonald was asked about what could be done about the flyers in an interview with The Oracle last week, she made clear that there had to be a distinction between free speech and what is harassment.
“If it is targeted at individuals if it causes disruptions if it is continuous or repeated that is harassment,” McDonald said.
If this organization’s presence is persistent on campus and they continue to disperse information designed to encourage students to harass and report other one another, it should be expected that USF takes swift and decisive action to get these hateful messages off of our campus.
Jared Sellick is a junior majoring in political science.