I have been living on the Bradley University campus for just under a week now. Up until this evening, I have been satisfied with the overall experience. I can smoke in my dorm room, I have decent access to food, and the classes are not too far away. The weekend life was something about which I was quite apprehensive. This was probably due to the fact that I have not met a lot of people yet. I do not drink, do not smoke dope, and am not a participant in the Greek system. It wasn’t a big deal, though. I was sure that I would find something to do. It was tonight, though, about which I should have been apprehensive. A friend of the family from the Quad Cities came to deliver a refrigerator to me and catch up on old times. When he first arrived, we met at the One World Coffee Shop and had dinner. We then ventured over to campus to bring the new additions to my dorm room. After accomplishing this task, we were heading back to the coffee shop to enjoy dessert when he decided that he needed to roll a cigarette. We stopped in the hallway, and as he rolled his cigarette a crowd began to form. People on my floor were stopping to view the amazing site: a 38 year-old man in a college dorm at nine-thirty on a Saturday evening, rolling his own cigarette. Some mentioned that they first thought he was a police officer of some sort, others asked if he was my dad. I introduced him as a friend. He knows a bit about religion and philosophy, so he soon became involved in conversation with some of the guys. This truly amazed me, because while he neither had a decent figure nor any beer, he managed to attract a crowd of college guys. After chatting for a bit, we headed to the coffee shop and enjoyed dessert, as planned. One of the guys with whom we had been conversing had left us with an open-ended invitation to join him in his room when we returned. When we finished at the coffee shop, we returned to campus with the intent of taking up that invitation. When we first got back to my floor, though, we stopped at my room to see that someone had scrawled a note for me with my dry-erase marker. The first thing that I noticed was the fact that, rather than writing the note on the dry-erase board, the author wrote the message on my door. As I keyed the door, I read the message: “Keep the child molester off our floor.” While I was quite aware that our school offered work-study programs, I had not considered that the position of security guard might be available to students. Another misconception that I had about work-study was that one had to apply for a job of that type. This baffled me for roughly three-tenths of a second. Suddenly I realized that this was not a job opportunity, but rather a coded message of sorts. Apparently someone on my floor was trying to tell me that adult males are not welcome here. I still do not recall seeing this policy written in the “Student Life Handbook” anywhere, but I suppose that the people who wrote that handbook must have accidentally omitted it somehow or another. Needless to say, my friend left campus shortly after we found that message.
All joking aside, this incident left me shocked and appalled. I attend a school where people of all various cultures and lifestyles peacefully coexist in pursuit of a higher education. Still, I bring a visitor to my room, and such shameless hatred and unfounded judgment are the greetings with which he is received. I suppose there is a learning experience in this situation, however, because I have never been able to quite sympathize with those who are subject to such treatment. I could never fully understand why African-American people that I have known have taken such offense to racism. I could never fully understand why women took such offense to sexism. I could never fully understand why homo- and bisexuals took such offense to homophobia. Reading the message written so tactfully on my bedroom door was quite enlightening. I do not think that this experience has shown me the true pain that these other people must feel when they experience the offshoots of others’ hatred for them. All of my life I have been a rather fortunate individual. I was born a heterosexual male in a family that happened to be of Caucasian descent. My family never had a whole lot of money, but we had enough on which to live and eat, and even enough to sometimes have fun. I received the blessing of a certain level of intelligence. Before today, I was never so unfortunate to have experienced hatred based on who I was. Now I have had just a small glimpse at the feelings of my fellow human beings who have been subject to hate of such caliber. While any hate is downright intolerable, hate of this variety is truly disgusting. I suppose that the only suggestion that I can make is that anyone who has not already seen it go out and rent “American History X”. Perhaps after seeing this movie, people will give a little more consideration to the feelings of others when venting their hatred. Oh, well. It’s probably just a pipe dream. So long as there is diversity, there will be hate.