July 18, 2019 | 81° F

RATERO: When standing up for justice is necessary

Opinions Column: Mangoes and Revolution


The expectation soared as the bleach-blonde character in the imperial blue suit climbed the stage. Rows of seats faced the elevated stage — nobody knows quite what to expect, but many know it won’t be good.

He takes off his sunglasses and smiles coyly at the audience, his entire persona rehearsed and rerehearsed. As he tactfully delivers false fact after false fact, the tension in the room becomes palpable. With endless ammunition, his voice becomes the firearm that delivers rounds of pure, unadulterated hatred.

The wage gap doesn’t exist because the left cannot distinguish between wages and earnings. Boom.

The rape epidemic on college campuses does not exist because we are not the Congo. Boom.

Lesbians don’t exist because sex has to involve a penis. Boom.

Black Lives Matter is akin to the KKK because they want segregation. Boom.

He didn’t finish until he virtually denied the existence of most of our university’s population, one sickeningly syrupy sentence at a time.

I’m not sure whether it was worse that his arguments were delivered in a tremendously efficient, pseudo-logical manner, or that there were students in that room with us, who we share public and private spaces with, cheering him on. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had adrenaline pumping through my veins.

People like him tap into people’s most primal emotions, create divisions and rile us up based on unfounded biases and oppressive assumptions.

It is terrifying and infuriating to be in a room full of that amount of hatred. It feels like somebody is going to harm and violate you physically at a moment’s notice — the only step left after they’ve been verbally abusing you and everything you stand for. It feels like after you leave, you will be tracked, bullied and threatened.

In fact, after we left, we have been tracked. And bullied. And threatened.

I recently saw a photograph of a wall in a favela in Brazil that said, “Rich people want peace to stay in power … we want peace to survive.” There is a tremendous amount of violence that backwards individuals who think like the man who visited our campus last week inflict on people every day. Yes, psychologically, and that is something to contend with in its own right — but also physically. Division, hatred and lack of understanding all create violence, as well as systemic and systematized violence in society.

Hate speech is an excuse to inflict violence on other people. It is the root cause of oppression and genocide because it’s used as justification. We listened to almost the entirety of his speech, and it was as vile as his YouTube videos — if not more, as he was capable of looking right at us and spewing his bigotry with a straight face.

Naturally we exercised our own right to bring this to the forefront of University news. People must know what is going on. Furthermore, self-proclaimed defenders of free speech need to grapple with the fact that we might have the right to say whatever we want, but that does mean that we should, or that saying those things will not have consequences.

Then again, if this had been about free speech, my face would not have been plastered on the Internet with what was essentially a search warrant: dead or alive. This is not the only threat I have received, and they dare speak of violence from us during our peaceful protest?

But let me make something else crystal clear. Students who favor justice and equality, and have morals, are not in the minority. Human beings respectful of other human beings are not in the minority. Every single person who stood there in opposition and passionately joined in with the "Black Lives Matter!" chants was right and righteous. We had every right to be there, and we were in fact representing the majority of the student body.

We should all be proud of our presence, of our disruption and what we represent as student activists.

Furthermore, life in a world where this brand of hatred exists is tremendously unsafe for anyone who does not fit the very narrow cis-white-hetero-patriarchal masculine norm. Rising up is not only important, it is necessary — and it can be therapeutic.

It feels good to rise up, share emotions, tensions and solidarity in the same physical space. Claiming your rights instead of waiting for them to be handed on a silver platter, which will never come, gives you purpose. This is not only tremendously valuable, but uplifting. The elation, happiness, feeling of productivity, energy and sense of conviction that comes from direct action is like no other.

Often times, standing up is no longer a matter of bravery, but of observing a need and doing what it takes to resolve that need. If and when you choose to join movements for justice and equality, you will never be alone.

Remember also, in the words of Audre Lorde: Your silence will not protect you.

Rutgers community: What will you do now?

Becky Ratero is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in women's and gender studies and history. Her column, "Mangoes and Revolution," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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Becky Ratero

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