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Breaking the long chai nof intolerances

On April 21, a painful incident occurred here at MIT at a typical fraternity party. Two minorities were standing by the keg talking to friends. They were approached by two fraternity members and asked to move to a "less conspicuous" place or to leave the party. They explained that they personally had no "problem" with the minorities, but some of the party-goers were offended. Since the two fraternity members were such "good hosts," they had no choice but to ask the pair to leave or move to a hidden corner. The "offenders" did protest, and were sent upstairs to a private room to discuss the problem with more sympathetic individuals.

The offense mentioned above was simple affection -- a held hand, or an arm casually placed around one another. What made it an offense was that the "offenders" were both male. If it had been any other minority group, two blacks, two Jews, two Hispanics, or two Asians near the keg, would something similar have happened? If not now, would something similar have happened in the 1960s? Not too long ago, an interracial couple would have caused an uproar. Can we not learn from past crimes and mistakes?

All of the above are minorities, including the two gay men. All were born as minorities; they had no choice. Some were born with different skin colors, and some were born with different sexual preferences. All are equally human, and all are equal to the prototypical white-male-Christian-heterosexual -- regardless of how ingrained our biases may be, or how intolerant the society is. It is absurd to punish someone for being born as a woman, a Latino, an Asian, a Jew, or a gay. Yes, they are all "different." They are all deviations from the "norm," but so is every person who is not afraid to be an individual. Diversity of any kind should be celebrated, not condemned.

The two "hosts" told the offenders that they should keep that "kind of stuff" separate from "normal" society. Are there to be separate parties, kegs, bathrooms, drinking fountains, schools, doctors, and jobs as well? Is a group to be excluded from mainstream society simply for being born different? Maybe I was naive or idealistic to think that since Americans have made this cruel mistake before, they would never repeat it. Bigotry and intolerance is simply that and nothing else -- no matter if it is manifested in slavery, concentration camps, gay-bashing, cross-burning, sexism, or the more subtle hatred of a segregated "separate but equal" world. What was it about the pair that offended these party-goers? Did they think the couple was unnatural? Disgusting? Sinful? The same thing was said about blacks only a century ago, to justify keeping them enslaved. The same arguments are always used; the minority target just shifts. Why must it continue?

I believe that in a school with some of the world's brightest individuals, we can see this intolerance and mindless hate for what it really is. It has no place among us. Why nurture and encourage it? Why allow it to exist at all in any form? Yes, accepting and learning to live with differences can be difficult; change comes slowly. But as fighters for equality have proven -- the leaders of the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the gay liberation movement -- change must come, and change will come. "Hooray!" for those brave few who have fought and continue to fight for the ideals of equality that our nation is supposed to stand for. "Hooray!" for Rosa Parks who would not yield her seat to a white man on an Alabama bus. "Hooray!" for those two individuals that were daring enough to simply hold hands at a party. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream applies to all of us. Why cannot we open our eyes enough to make that dream a reality and stop this mindless hate?

Jason Satterfield '90->