Colgate likes to portray our school as a utopian campus where everyone lives in peace and harmony in the shining university on a hill. Prospective students are told that everyone loves it here and that we have a rich and diverse student body that interacts with one another and regularly engages in the “Colgate Hello.” It is time that we opened our eyes. The recent acts of intolerance are a scar on our school’s image. While on the surface students seem to live in harmony, the recent events have revealed that there are racial tensions on our campus. From the “Speak Out” on the quad, the Senate meeting last Tuesday, and through anonymous posts on the “No Hate at ‘Gate” blog it is clear that many students have heard words similar to those written on the bathroom wall in the privacy of their dorms or at parties.
These are not isolated acts. Yet, something powerful triggered these bigots to go public. It is a shame that the election of Barack Obama, a moment of triumph against racism and a source of pride for all Americans who believe in equality, was perhaps the very event that inflamed these bigots to yell racial slurs to their fellow students from the anonymity of their dorm windows and to threaten black students by defacing a bathroom wall with encouragement to lynch them all.
It is clear from the attendance at the solidarity event in the Chapel and from spontaneous acts of compassion that these heinous events have moved a significant amount of students, faculty and administrators. We would like to thank administrators for putting together the solidarity event and are grateful to members of the faculty for canceling or cutting short their classes to allow students to attend. Never in our four years at Colgate have we seen a turnout like the one we witnessed last Wednesday. The hundreds of students inside and, amazingly, outside the chapel stood together as one community to protest the racist acts of a few. The perpetrators were probably not in the chapel last Wednesday, but they didn’t need to be. They noticed that their classes were cancelled. They saw that over a thousand of their classmates are united against their actions. They heard the voices of campus leaders and fellow students echo across the quad denouncing racism. They hopefully realized that their statements on the bathroom wall, the racial slurs they yell from windows and the hateful comments they utter in the presence of their friends are unwelcome here. Hate speech is not accepted or protected here at Colgate.
We must decisively act as a community to make students feel comfortable and safe on our campus. SGA will form a taskforce open to all students, faculty and administrators that will serve as a central body to coordinate all efforts and events aimed to combat racism. Yet, there is a limit to what SGA can do to solve this problem. Rather, it is up to each of us to take matters into our own hands. It can be as simple as telling a friend or strangers that the hateful comments they made are unacceptable. If you want a larger role in combating racism then join the taskforce and work to change policy. It is easy to sit in the chapel among sympathetic peers and nod your head to encouragements to take action. We want to know what you will specifically do to fight racism at Colgate.
This is not a minor issue that we are dealing with. Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who famously walked with Dr. King in Selma, Alabama, once said, “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man — the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
Let us band together to fight racism and take back our school. Please look out for forthcoming emails and posters with more information about the taskforce.