Link Up Against Homophobia: Statement from the Action Organizers

Members of the LGBTQI+ campus community, who participated in a demonstration on The Green last week in response to a possible hate crime at a fraternity party, submitted the following statement to The Review.

On Wednesday, April 18th, a team of organizers facilitated a crisis response demonstration addressing the hate crime that occurred on the University of Delaware’s campus the preceding Friday. The cruel assault against one of our own; a member of the LGBTQI+ community, who was also a Dominican Latine Person of Color, was perpetrated by members of the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta, commonly known as “FIJI.”

We, the members of the team that organized the Link Up Against Homophobia demonstration, would like to express our extreme rage that this crime occurred; this rage has been echoed by multiple on-campus organizations that serve the LGBTQI+ community. We also desire to express discontent with the lack of an appropriate response from the University and our disappointment with tone policing from the community in reaction to Link Up Against Homophobia. This statement aims to explain our position in the context of current climate surrounding LGBTQI+, intersectional issues, and our refusal to amend our message.

Tone policing is defined by Everyday Feminism as a silencing tactic used by “those holding privilege to prevent marginalized [people] from sharing their experiences of oppression…Tone policing focuses on the emotion behind a message rather than the message itself… tone policing protects privilege.” We invite you to read this article explaining tone policing in its entirety: https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/12/tone-policing-and-privilege/.

We were met with this behavior throughout the organization process. During the demonstration, onlookers asked if we “were there,” “saw it,” “knew the whole story,” and if the victim had done anything to provoke the attacks, as if the suffering of the queer community as a result of these abuses wasn’t sufficient reason for action rebuking them. An article published by The Review claimed that our refusal to be photographed and videotaped without our consent, our screams for our message to be heard, and our “jeers” at the offending party caused “tensions” to “escalate.” This article recklessly and inaccurately reported that demonstrators were physically violent towards bystanders.

We will continue to assert the validity of our anger and our criticisms, that our message deserves to be heard, and that our demands must be met. We will continue to assert that the video evidence and witnessed use of homophobic slurs indicates to the Newark Police Department and the University of Delaware that this should be investigated as a hate crime. We will continue to assert that the offending parties and any organization complicit with homophobia, racism, and transphobia must be expelled from the University of Delaware’s campus. We will continue to assert that this is necessary in order to capture the severity and scope of the assault and of the routine abuses the LGBTQI+ community suffers.

We encourage you to think critically about the importance of protecting one’s identity as a queer or trans person from video evidence of protest, especially for those who aren’t “out” as LGBTQI+, and especially for those voicing their concern over the assault of a community member. FIJI is still present on this campus, as is the culture of violence towards LGBTQI+ people. We encourage Mitchell Patterson, Ross Doty, and The Review to contemplate the stance that the end of their article takes and the lack of journalistic responsibility and integrity present in their report.

Your article did not explain the importance of protecting your identity as a Civil Rights Organizer, especially surrounding LGBTQI+ issues. Your article inaccurately claims demonstrators “physically pushed” individuals taking photos and video recordings when they used nonviolent, albeit disruptive, tactics. We amplified our message and protected our identities by holding our hands and signs in front of recording devices and walking towards those individuals while verbally insisting that no party had given photo consent. We found your article to be irresponsible and inaccurate. It was an exemplary addition to the long tradition of media vilifying black and brown demonstrators, whose justified anger in the face of brutality is often met with tone policing.

We ask: how we are expected to face those who beat a fellow queer person of color? What would be the “right” way to face the larger community who are complicit in our abuse? Why is our anger in the face of injustice more threatening than the ever-present oppressive actions of your fellow students?

Your article did not address the institutional power that FIJI and all white associations within Greek life hold. No email from University officials can make reparations for the culture of violence, and then silence, that has proved to abound within white Greek life and at University of Delaware. How are we, at the intersection of being LGBTQI+ and of color, to cope with the fear of being brutalized daily? We contend that, even in the face of the unquestioning loyalty of their members and their adeptness at closing ranks, we should continue to question the “traditional morality” that these organizations uphold.

The Newark Police Department, Greek Life, and the University of Delaware are culpable for the disappointingly brief and passive response of the community to the hate crime that occurred that day. The Review and all ambivalent bystanders in cases of injustice are complicit in the culture of violence against LGBTQI+ people, against people of color, and against women. Silencing or attenuating the anger, frustration, fear, and discontent of marginalized populations actively maintains the power imbalances that result in their marginalization. Upsetting these power imbalances requires holding the perpetrators of the assault and organizations accountable, providing direct restitution to victims, and uplifting the needs of queer and trans people with transparent policy changes. Every person on campus, especially those in power, have the responsibility to change the culture of silence on and complicity with homophobia, misogyny, racism, and violence on campus.

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