Until a few weeks ago, I had always tried to defend my home state of Indiana from the stereotypes and criticism attributed to it — claims that it was backwards, ignorant, boring. So it hurt that much more when a few weeks ago, Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. For the first time since I had gotten into Yale, I was disappointed in my home state. For the first time, I was at a loss. I was no longer proud to be a Hoosier. How could I show pride in a place that institutionally allows for the discrimination against some of the people whom I consider my closest friends at Yale? And despite what Governor Michael Pence may say and what the initial intentions of the bill may have been, that is what this bill is de facto doing.
The feeling only grew when I realized the position I was in. While I still consider Indiana — the state where I spent the first 18 years of my life — my home, I’m not even a registered voter there. I’m effectively not even a citizen of that state, and being on the east coast gave me a kind of restless, but aimless energy. I wanted to act, but I felt so isolated from this problem that I didn’t know what to do.
That’s why I’m writing this column today. As Yalies, we feel strongly about a lot of things, but sometimes feeling isn’t enough — sometimes “righteous indignation” just won’t do it. Definitive, clear actions need to be taken if we are to combat injustice. The phrase “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” may be over-quoted and over-used, but I think that it nonetheless holds true, especially now.
I admit I have a personal attachment to this issue. I’m from Indiana and I personally feel at odds with this bill. A freedom to discriminate is no freedom at all, even it if is cloaked in the rhetoric and guise of religious freedom. But Indiana natives and members of the LGBTQ community shouldn’t be the only ones who care about this issue. If not for someone who you know that it may affect, then care about this law because it contradicts the notions of equality that so many of us are proud to uphold.
As a Yale student from Indiana, I am in a particular position. While I may no longer be close to those who can directly affect Indiana politics, I am lucky enough to be able to communicate with the people who operate and represent one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. So I guess you can say that this column is directed at the leaders of the Yale community.
Universities have already begun taking action against the RFRA. The presidents of Indiana University, DePauw University and Butler University have issued public statements opposing the bill, and this was then shortly followed by Valparaiso University and Hanover College joining the opposition.
Now, these universities may be located in Indiana, but location shouldn’t keep us from denouncing the RFRA. Just as we ought to speak out against wrongs committed in other countries, it’s even more important that we speak out when wrongs are committed in what we call “our land.” We shouldn’t be selective on the issues we feel strongly about — the notions of equality don’t disappear once they cross the Connecticut border.
I want to urge University President Peter Salovey to publicly oppose Indiana’s RFRA, an act which represents discrimination and ignorance that is unacceptable in the 21st century. As a school that represents people of all genders, orientations and hometowns, Yale is affected by this issue just as much as the brave schools that have already stood in opposition to the RFRA.
Yale has a unique podium to give voice to issues of injustice. Our voice carries weight and we should use it responsibly. Publicly standing against Indiana’s RFRA would be a step in the right direction, and hopefully lead to changes that make me proud to call Indiana my home again. I urge this not only as an American citizen, or as a Yalie, but as a Hoosier.
Leo Kim is a sophomore in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact him at email@example.com .