On Saturday, Jan. 21, roughly 50,000 people marched on Philadelphia, part of a nationwide protest against the ideals of President Trump. On Tuesday, Jan. 24, about a dozen protesters who identified themselves as “Bible believers” came to Chestnut Square to preach ideas like slut-shaming, homophobia and islamophobia.
At the Chestnut Square protest, some Drexel students became infuriated. Some cried as the protestors called them out as sinners. Some people laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of their vitriolic rhetoric. Very few people, if any, took up one of their signs to stand behind them.
As United States citizens we have the right to peaceful assembly. We can protest when we don’t agree – when we think our society or government needs to head in a different direction.
But for many students, these religious protestors and their radical, prejudiced ideas took seemed too extreme. We understand why students at Drexel, a very liberal university, wouldn’t want to hear what they have to say.
We understand why they might want to silence them.
But even if we could – which we can’t – we still absolutely should not.
When you forcefully take away someone’s voice, you give them a kind of power. To them and their followers, you make them into a martyr. Suddenly, they’re not just shouting at the air, they’re fighting what they perceive as a noble fight against unjust opposition. If you take the time to shut them down, it means that you consider them a real threat – and that gives them a legitimacy they didn’t have before.
It is completely within your rights to disagree with anyone else. But if that’s the case, don’t just tell them to stop speaking, and don’t just tell others not to listen.
Instead, use facts to forward your position. Use reasonable, logical points to forward your arguments. To paraphrase Michelle Obama, if they go low, go high – don’t fight vitriol with vitriol. And, in the likely event that you are unable to change their mind, be able to walk away knowing that you have a valid opinion that is based in facts and truth. As Donald Trump initiates a controversial presidency, and more protests loom on the horizon, keep the following maxim in mind.
Don’t silence – discredit.