By BLUE & GRAY PRESS EDITORIAL BOARD
On the night of Feb. 18, a campus-wide email was sent from the UMW Campus Police notifying the community about stickers found around campus from a group called the Patriot Front reading “America First” and “Patriot Front.” The email cites the Anti-Defamation League which defines the Patriot Front as “a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it solely to them. The Patriot Front espouses racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ‘ethnic and cultural origins’ of their European ancestors.” The email denounces these ideas and the presence of the propaganda on campus as a violation of UMW’s community values and encourages anyone with information to come forward.
Promoting their twisted definition of what it is to be an American, the Patriot Front’s manifesto reads, “To be an American is to be a descendant of conquerors, pioneers, visionaries, and explorers. This unique identity was given to us by our ancestors, and this national spirit remains firmly rooted in our blood.” It continues, “an African, for example, may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labelled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people as well as to those who do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora.”
On Feb. 19, shortly after the initial notification, President Paino released a video responding to sticker incident and encouraging the community to stand together and “affirm our values.” Paino said, “Yes, we believe in the First Amendment: freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry; but we also believe in creating a supportive, caring and safe environment for our students. I want to encourage you to look for opportunities in the coming days and weeks for us to come together as a community, because at Mary Washington, we are stronger when we are united and refuse to be divided.”
While situations such as these are always frightening, it is encouraging to see such a fast and strong response from the administration and campus police. The appearance of hateful notes espousing or symbolizing racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic bigotry has been an ongoing and unacceptable issue over the last few years at UMW and other universities across the nation. In times such as these, it is doubly important for students to foster an environment of unity, inclusivity, kindness and appreciation of diversity.
On Feb. 20, the UMW Student Government Association also released a statement echoing Campus Police and President Paino’s sentiments about maintaining a “respectful environment” and “inclusive atmosphere” in the wake of this divisive propaganda. In the same email, they note “several incidents regarding the Spirit Rock recently including but not limited to instances of the Spirit Rock being defaced with spray paint.” This is one example of behavior that is not representative of who we are and does not help create the inclusive and diverse environment we have all come to cherish. The University of Mary Washington is, and should continue to strive to be, a safe space for people of differing backgrounds and opinions to communicate and learn from each other in a respectful way and without fear of persecution. If we can continue to do this, it will go a long way in creating a united front against those that would attempt to instill fear and contention in our community with hate speech and divisive propaganda.