The new year is a time of fresh starts, different resolutions, and unwanted colds and sniffles. However, for many college students, the new year brings the annual College Conference in Montreat, North Carolina. This year the theme was Beyond Babel with a focus on race and anti-racism.
During the short duration of the Montreat College Conference, many minds were opened and hearts throbbed, but something was different this year. It was uncomfortable and it was the most necessary form of discomfort needed. The sermons, squeamish. The workshops, difficult. And the discussions, anxious.
So why was this discomfort so necessary and why was it so suitable? For starters, growth cannot occur without being uncomfortable. Montreat made it uncomfortable because we became aware of just how many lives have been lost due to unequal privilege. We became antsy because hearing the statistics of imbalanced treatment and dehumanization is just heartbreaking. It was uncomfortable because it was a topic most would avoid in order to stay comfortable.
With keynote speakers and preachers like Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark and Rev. Paul Roberts Sr., students were challenged to tune into new outlooks and opinions. More than just learning the statistics and becoming aware of the true hate that is going on in the world around us, we learned what our role is during this time. Surprisingly from this, things became a little easier to bear.
The year of 2016 was one of the worst for hate crime and violence, and it is not stopping anytime soon. With a heavy heart, it is easy to be discouraged by all of the hate when the love is so evident in the midst of it all. But once we learn our roles during this time and understand what comes with it, we become uplifted. Sikh activist Valarie Kaur became the voice of comfort, discomfort, and hope for the entire conference. Valarie gave insight of many hate crimes that have personally affected her and ones that she was present to witness. Winding down, she told us that she can’t tell us it will get better. Fifteen years after one of the most heartbreaking hate crimes of her life, Valarie told us that the violence has not stopped. How depressing, right? Maybe so. But our role is not to be the “fix-all” for these hate crimes. Our job is to love anyway. When it is hard to love, love anyway. When you have reason to not, love anyway. Letting love be the voice of reason and the voice of peace can shift an entire world. Because what if the history textbooks are meant to look like this? What if they are suppose to show years of hate, only to be disrupted by an overflow of love coming from more and more people? That is our job.
Montreat College Conference was eye-opening and in most ways, uncomfortable and sad. But with this discomfort came growth. With thousands of students tuned into this idea of “revolutionary love” that Mrs. Kaur instilled, a revolution could happen. It can only start if we love anyway.
Junior Communication Studies Major
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville