Jessica Kerr, adjunct professor for the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State, and Brandon Irwin, assistant professor of kinesiology, have kickstarted a social media movement against hatred and bigotry.
Following the Black Student Union’s emergency meeting Nov. 1, Kerr and Irwin met to discuss the proceedings, which Kerr described as “heart-wrenching.”
“We wanted to unequivocally condemn acts of white supremacy and racism,” Kerr said.
Kerr and Irwin agreed that the biggest impact would happen in the classroom, so the “pledge” they designed was directly related to elements of the classroom, Kerr said.
The pledge began with a post on Facebook by Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students.
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Bosco’s Facebook post listed three “straightforward asks” developed during the BSU meeting along with the hashtags “#NoHateKState” and “#MHKAgainstHate.” The post also included a pledge promising the creation of “a KSU where acts of white supremacy and racism are unequivocally renounced,” a university that stands “for a diverse and inclusive campus” and a classroom setting that is “culturally competent.”
Kerr said she thought Bosco’s support was important because it inspired others to participate.
“I was honored to be the first to be included in this intentional way to express where I stand,” Bosco said. “It was natural, easy and allowed me to speak to my students through social media.”
In a separate Facebook post, Irwin encouraged others to participate.
“We must show our faces,” Irwin wrote. “Take this pledge with me.”
Kerr said it was a simple act that quickly gained traction on social media. The hashtag “#NoHateKState” generates over 50 public images on Facebook, and “#MHKAgainstHate” produces similar results.
However, Irwin said the hashtags are not what is important.
“The people who are affected by these acts of hate are what’s most important,” Irwin said. “Our community is what’s important. It’s about communicating to our community members who have been the targets of hate and racism that we love them and that they are surrounded by allies and support.”
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Kerr said that although the vandalism of a Manhattan resident’s car – the incident that prompted the emergency BSU meeting – was committed by the car’s owner, this does not change her feelings about the social media campaign.
“Our students of color are already on edge from the series of racialized incidents on our campus and in our community – from social media posts to white supremacist fliers,” Kerr said.
Kerr did express concerns that future acts of racial, religious or sexist intolerance will be treated under a “shroud of suspicion.”
Irwin said he has hope that the viral hashtags will inspire others to confront “pervasive problems” in society.
“What I really hope for is that this hashtag tips over the mountain of hashtags, tweets, rallies, articles, podcasts and dialogues and provokes us to imagine a community that is truly equitable and compassionate,” Irwin said.