Our community has been shaken by the series of hate-fueled crimes and murders committed around our nation over the last week. This morning I spoke with the students, faculty, and staff about my thoughts about these incidents and asked for a moment of silence.
Last Wednesday, October 24th, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, both black, were shot to death in a supermarket in Kentucky by a white man who had just tried unsuccessfully to enter a predominantly black church in the same town.
Last week a Florida man sent pipe bombs to the homes and offices of a number of Democratic leaders who have been outspoken critics of the current administration.
On Saturday, a gunman clearly motivated by extreme anti-Semitism opened fire in The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger were killed and six others were seriously wounded.
In all three crises there were individuals who acted bravely to prevent further violence and aid the victims. Law enforcement officers were shot trying to enter the Tree of Life Synagogue and civilians attempted to stop the Kroger shooter. Many others attended to the wounded and comforted the families and friends of the victims. We are experiencing a rise in hatred throughout the world and leaders are winning elections and leading in the polls running campaigns meant to divide and polarize.
What can we do? How do we as a community stand against hate? How do we start by making everyone in this room feel safe and validated?
First, we must do no harm. We must remember that little things like jokes can lead to bigger things.
Second, it is important that we understand that this is not normal and that we must not normalize these events or the motivations behind them. Normalizing events leads to passivity and an acceptance of a new, more distressing, normal.
Third, we must continue to educate ourselves about racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of religious hatred, misogyny, and hatred directed against the LGBTQ+ community; just to name a few forms of unacceptable hatred.
Fourth, we must have intellectual and emotional empathy for people who are different from ourselves. We cannot assume we know how other people are feeling or assume that they should feel safe. We should seek to understand someone else's experience. Try it; try learning without judging, try not to get defensive--I think you will find it to be a powerful experience. Just listen.
We can be allies, advocates, and activists. According to the Anti-Defamation League:
An ally is someone who speaks out on behalf of someone else or takes actions that are supportive of someone else. Example: Hearing someone use an anti-Semitic slur and reaching out to that person and telling them you think that was wrong.
An advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. Example: Writing a letter to your Congressperson to urge them to support legislation about anti-Semitism.
An activist is someone who gets involved in activities that are meant to achieve political or social change; this also includes being a member of an organization which is working on change. Example: Participating in a demonstration that is focusing on anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Fortunately, there are people who are doing big and small things to address the hate we are seeing. Last winter an individual boarded a train in Manhattan and saw hate-fueled graffiti on the walls and windows of the train. He started trying to wipe the graffiti off when someone told him that hand sanitizer worked for cleaning Sharpie ink. People on the train followed his lead, took out their hand sanitizers and got to work. They cleaned the entire train car. Sometimes it takes just one individual to spark a small act of humanity.
Just in the last two weeks, I have spoken to three seniors on separate occasions who reflected on how much they have grown at Dublin and how much their minds have opened up over the last few years. They pointed out how enriching it has been to live, study, and play with people with such different life stories from their own. We are all coming from different backgrounds, some of you are just beginning to learn about hatred and its historical roots, and others have studied and/or experienced these hatreds for years. I challenge the Dublin community to be decent human beings and to bring love, understanding, and compassion out into the world.
Truth and Courage,