CW: Discussion of anti-Semitism, white supremacy, violence
Dear Puget Sound community members,
It is with a heavy heart that I, once again, write to the campus community regarding our failures in supporting and protecting each other. In yet another email from campus administration regarding anti-Semitic incidents at Puget Sound on Oct. 18, President Crawford stated that “these acts are unacceptable and an affront to our entire university community,” but our university community as a whole has yet to take action against this problem.
Let me be clear: anti-Semitism – and bigotry in general – is not something that just happens. These behaviors are a result of a long legacy of white supremacy in this country; they are intentional and they come from a place of discrimination. It does not matter if someone within or outside of our community is behind these instances of discrimination, the white supremacist presence on this campus is showing itself very clearly and we have a responsibility to do something about it.
My fear is that our failure to address the issue of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and all of the other things that happen on our campus, comes from a mindset of exceptionalism. We think we are so different from other schools, that our Greek Life is better because it isn’t like other Greek systems, and that our Puget Sound education makes us smarter and more progressive than faith and religious traditions. But, no matter how pretty our campus is or how nice people seem to be, our campus and community does not stop us from committing acts of violence towards each other or allowing this acts to be done to us. We have yet to show that we are better – that we are exceptional – and the idea that we are different from the rest of the country is far from true.
In April of 2017, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported an 86 percent surge in anti-Semitic behavior in the first quarter of 2017, which comes on top of a 34 percent “year-over-year increase in incidents” from 2015. This national increase has translated into education as well, with more reports from both K-12 schools and institutions of higher education.
“Schools are a microcosm of the country,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in the ADL report, “Children absorb messages from their parents and the media, and bring them into their schools and playgrounds. We are very concerned the next generation is internalizing messages of intolerance and bigotry.”
Unfortunately, this type of anti-Semitic behavior is not new to Tacoma, either. A collection of archives at the University of Kansas contains materials dating from 1920 to 1936, which include letters from Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members in Pierce County, membership guides, pamphlets, photos of a KKK parade float, and “a Klan hood from Tacoma, Washington.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center also lists a number of white supremacist organizations currently operating in Washington State, including a Klan headquarters in Vancouver, and anti-Muslim, White Nationalist, and Neo-Nazi movements in Seattle.
While we may feel like we exist in our own little bubble, the reality of violence on this campus is becoming more and more difficult to ignore or sweep under the rug. It is no longer acceptable for community members to be uninformed, uninvolved, or expect the people that these violent acts are directly hurting to fix it for us.
We must realize that there are students here that feel unsafe on this campus, and that this is not a new phenomenon. We, as a community, need to shut down the white supremacy that is threatening our well-being.
As I said before, discrimination does not happen on accident. The anti-Semitic behavior that we have seen on this campus is dangerous, and it is imperative that we understand it this way. The first step is educating yourself on the legacy of discrimination the United States and in your communities.
“The majority of anti-Semitic acts are not carried out by organized extremists, as the bomb threats in 2017 demonstrate,” Oren Segal, the Director of the ADL Center on Extremism, said, “Anti-Semitism is not the sole domain of any one group, and needs to be challenged wherever and whenever it arises.”