Dear journalists and news editors:
Congratulations. You walked right into the welcoming arms of Breitbart, their stuntman, Milo Yiannopoulos, and the publicity puppy, Martin Shkreli. I hope you feel proud of yourselves.
When our community heard the Breitbart circus was coming to town, the protests were only one of the responses that was planned.
Students put together two alternative events that night to build something positive at the same time that Yiannopoulos was promoting hatred. One event was called Change/the Conversation and featured Franchesca Ramsey from MTV’s Decoded and trans activist CeCe McDonald. For two hours, Ramsey and McDonald discussed racism, the intersectionality of prejudices, and how to overcome them. A second event was called The Dog Whistle Project and featured Kevin Samy, a strategist and speechwriter in President Obama’s administration. Samy unpacked the coded language that transmits the politics of hate and shared ideas on how to cross the “empathy bridge” to connect across political divides.
Additionally, that same night, the Acme Theatre Company was staging their production of Pronoun, a play that explores the journey of a trans high schooler as he struggles with his transition with his friends, his family, and his self. Acme Theatre Company gives high school students a place to learn both acting and technical theatre skills, and their plays provide a forum for challenging and thought-provoking topics. After the play, members of LGBTQIA community groups held a Q&A with the audience.
An ounce of research would have turned up all the efforts that our community put in to counter Breitbart’s message of hate.
Even your reporting of the protest itself was disappointing. Did you notice that one of the groups protesting is a well-known local group called Statement of Love? Did you know that when our Islamic Center received a threatening letter that Statement of Love showed up multiple times at the mosque to demonstrate our community support for our Muslim neighbors? Did you even try to learn any of the valid grievances that the protesters have about Breitbart coming to our community and our university and using us as a platform for their message of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia? Did you ask any students about their stories of harassment and fear because they are trans, they are Muslim, they are undocumented, and Breitbart has swept a candidate into our highest office who has promised to attack them all?
If there is one lesson that the news media should have learned from this past election, it is this: You need to try harder. Your appetite solely for spectacle means that the less exciting but far more necessary community actions to organize and build solidarity fly under your radar and make you the dupes of the alt-right. You can still make this right. Come back and talk to us. Highlight the everyday actions we are taking to create positive change in the world. Show the world that we—and you—are better than Friday night’s coverage.
Concerned Citizens of Davis