What started as a murmur turned into a full community buzz this past week as word of the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) street harassment awareness wall getting torn down by the MUB and UNH administration spread like wildfire. From letters in The New Hampshire to coverage in The Huffington Post, the community has been discussing topics of street harassment and the public awareness of the “tough” topics.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This quote by Martin Luther King Jr. seems to fit this situation perfectly. It states a simple observation that darkness is a lack of light and darkness cannot make anything less dark, only light can accomplish that. Similarly, the quote explains that hate cannot drive out hate from one’s heart or the world, only love can. In the end, hate will continue if left without love.
This quote relates to our community’s scenario because although the administration should not be seen as a symbol of “hate,” these actions and decisions are putting a real community issue in the dark. That being said, what has truly amazed me over the past few weeks is the support and love for the students who created the project, the bright light brought to the situation and the true discussion that has been facilitated by an action that could have put these words, problems and victims in the dark.
To me, this sequence of events has not only opened my eyes to how strong a community can be and how much of a difference one person can make, but how “normal” we can make situations of harassment. Almost every person I have talked to about street harassment these past few weeks has said they have always ignored it. And frankly, that is what I have done, too. If someone makes an inappropriate remark, it has always seemed easier to pretend it was never said and not look back, not give this person the satisfaction of a reaction. It’s absurd that a such profane language has become normalized and shoved into this darkness.
Now, as one, we are bringing this issue into light. I have often felt proud of our unique community vibes here in Durham, but over the past three years, I have never seen such an effort by so many to start discussion. Although my time here is close to ending, as it is for many of us Wildcats, I think that we can all take this situation as a positive learning experience that has shown us how powerful simply talking about an issue is. Change doesn’t happen overnight, we can’t make every person on campus aware of a campaign for change from one bulletin board, but we can make an impact by starting a conversation.