In one of Maya Angelou’s most memorable poems, she wrote: “… Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise. Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise.”
For the last three years at Gonzaga Law School, Uri Clinton’s life read like a line out of that poem.
As one of a small group of black law students enduring the racist letters and telephone calls of an anonymous bigot, Clinton would rise daily to persevere toward his degree. Last May, Clinton rose once again, proudly wearing a traditional kente cloth from Ghana as he graduated from the law school. By staying focused on a dream he had pursued since the fourth grade, he at the same time overcame the power of hate.
This week, Gonzaga University itself announced a similar triumph. It, too, will rise above the destructive and deeply embarrassing hate crimes that have afflicted its campus for the last three years. It will combat bigotry by creating a new Institute for Action Against Hate. In founding this institute, the university also helps the Inland Northwest confront the racial hatred that has marred this entire region. It has the potential to turn a shameful negative into a shining positive.
The university devised an innovative solution to a formidable problem. A beefed-up security system or a series of campus meetings would be predictable, linear solutions. This one is neither. Instead, this creative idea surprises and delights the community because it holds the promise of transformation.
The only institute of its kind on any U.S. campus, it will be a clearinghouse for information on hate and hate crimes. It will sponsor lectures, develop courses and eventually publish a scholarly journal. By becoming an academic center for the scholarly investigation of hate, Gonzaga will shine a brilliant floodlight into a dark, dank cave. Suddenly, the things which slither and breathe in that darkness, such as terror and violence, will find their environment has been radically changed.
Congratulations to Gonzaga, to the activist students and the creative thinkers among the faculty and administration who conceived this idea and to the Jesuits into whose mission this form of social justice so naturally fits. We welcome Gonzaga’s new Institute for Action Against Hate to the Inland Northwest and wish it well as it works to transform ignorance into insight and hatred into hope.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jamie Tobias Neely/For the editorial board