Minnesota could be a nicer place

While we are typically a tolerant culture, there is always room for improvement.

Our community has seen a disturbing trend of hate-based actions on campus this year, some of them employing racial epithets we hoped were dead. According to B David Galt, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office director, his office has seen a huge increase in reported incidents. OK, people. We can’t let this go on.

Unfortunately, our State Legislature does not provide us with a great example. You almost can’t open the paper without reading some state’s legislature proposing some form of discrimination, including the recently revived ban on same-sex marriage.

“The Laramie Project,” a dramatic account of the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard is being performed Friday through Sunday at the University. Especially given recent events, this is a great opportunity for students to get a healthy portion of food for tolerant thought, and some culture to boot.

Shepard was a gay man attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. After leaving a bar, he was taken out of town, severely beaten and left for dead. By the time he was found, he was near dead. He died shortly thereafter.

On Saturday, there will also be a symposium titled “How is it here?,” which will include Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, as the keynote speaker. Thankfully, we have not recently seen anything like the tragedy Matthew Shepard endured. Minnesota is fairly tolerant, but we can do better. While some of that jump in incidents reported to the GLBT programs office might be because of a higher willingness to report an incident (which is incredibly positive), they still should not exist.

A less obvious but more pervasive problem is the use of derogatory language. While racial or ethnic slurs are no longer acceptable, jokes about homosexuals or even the use of “gay” or “fag” as generally negative words are all too common. It might seem innocent, but it’s offensive and hurtful to many.

Each and every person deserves basic respect and tolerance. That includes attention to large issues, such as hate crimes, and smaller issues, such as poorly thought-out and insensitive jokes. In the end, no matter what your political or ideological persuasion is, we think this is something Minnesota should continue to strive to improve on. Attending either of the events would likely give people food for thought.

For information on both events, contact Rarig Center at (612) 624-2345.