College Democrats at the University of California San Diego last week branded flyers recently posted around their campus as "racist propaganda." The flyers in question were simple, bearing only a picture of murder victim Kate Steinle's face and the phrase, "She had dreams too."
The illegal immigrant who shot and killed Steinle in 2015 was acquitted of both murder and manslaughter on Nov. 30. His argument in court was that it was an accident.
A newly-formed coalition of conservative students on the West Coast, identified as "Right Wing West," subsequently began posting the flyers around campuses. The group published a video of their efforts here on Dec. 14, apparently depicting students at the University of Washington tearing down the same flyers for promoting a "racist viewpoint." Right Wing West claims the flyers were vandalized at a number of other campuses as well.
At UCSD, Gregory Lu hung 150 of the flyers on Dec. 7, according to an interview with The College Fix. By the next day, Lu said, all of those flyers had disappeared. The university's Office for the Prevention of Harassment & Discrimination reportedly contacted Lu four days later about an "incident report," asking him to come in for a meeting.
On Dec. 11, the UCSD College Democrats issued a statement referring to the flyers as "racist propaganda" aimed at "targeting undocumented students and the undocumented community" and "intended to stoke racial hatred, create feelings of intimidation, and incite fear amongst marginalized communities on our campus."
Again, the flyers included just a picture of Steinle's face and the words, "She had dreams too."
Certainly the students' invocation of "dreams" is an allusion to beneficiaries of the DACA program — currently under negotiation in Washington — who are referred to as Dreamers. Given the Steinle family's stated discomfort with many efforts to politicize Kate's death, the students might do well to take another approach. "We just want to get this over with and move on with our lives, and think about Kate on our terms. Nothing’s been on our terms. It’s been on everyone else’s terms," her father said after the verdict was rendered last month.
But the flyers are not "racist propaganda," and to suggest as much is absurd and counterproductive. We've written extensively here about the Left's efforts to expand the definition of racism in a way that implicates well-meaning people whose views diverge from progressive orthodoxy. It's a dangerous game. On campuses, that perspective is passed on from professors and administrators to students. But the more liberal students label posters like the ones hung at UCSD "racist," the less seriously they will be taken when it comes time for them to denounce and combat legitimate acts of hatred, and the more people they will alienate by impugning their motives.