The Oracle

Further action required for hate incident

Hamline's response to white supremacy fell short

Emily Lazear, Reporter

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On Nov.12, a photograph of a group of male students from Baraboo, Wis. went viral. Many of the students had their arms raised in a Nazi salute, one had his hand curled into a white power sign on his leg and most of the young men had their mouths wide open with laughter. The shocking image of high school students dressed for prom, throwing up stiff-armed salutes and giggling drew worldwide condemnation.

On Nov. 13, Hamline University President Fayneese Miller sent an email informing Hamline Campus members that one of the young Baraboo men is currently a Hamline student. Hamline was quick to deny the student’s involvement in the Nazi salute on his word and instead said he “used his voice to condemn violence and extremism.”

While this is a welcome sentiment, we have to resist the temptation to breathe a sigh of relief, to be comforted by the fact that this social justice-forward, intentional community, Hamline University, could never be home to a white supremacist. This is an uncomfortable moment for our campus, but we can’t sweep it under the rug. Miller’s email, while it jumped to hasty conclusions and minimized what was happening in the picture, got a few things right. This is, as Miller wrote, a “teachable moment.”

Students at Hamline were met with radio silence after the email was sent, and we deserve better. Now is the time to start a dialogue about the danger of normalizing hate and bigotry, about the history of the nazi salute and the ideology that it promotes. We can’t let ourselves forget that the nazis slaughtered 17 million people because they were taught they were the master race. That’s 11 million more than just the Jews we usually associate with the Holocaust. Jews, non-aryan people, people with disabilities, and LGBTQIA people were all victims of people who made this sign. Nazis’ economic desperation led them to use these marginalized groups as scapegoats and ship them to concentration camps to die horrific deaths.

Whether or not the student’s individual experience was born out of hate, compliance, or ignorance of what was happening around him, is beside the point. Students want a real discussion about this photo, about white supremacy. We can’t ignore its implications on campus and in classrooms when we let things like the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting of eleven praying Jews, or the Kroger shooting of two Black people trying to grocery shop go undiscussed.

Unfortunately, we’re not the only school campus that deals with racism and hatred directly. When someone scrawled “N***** Go Back” on the dorm room door of a Black student at the University of St. Thomas, over 100 staff and faculty members were quick to respond with an open letter to the president as the Anti-Racism Coalition. The letter illustrated the ways in which they would combat intolerance on campus, and ended with “Members of ARC will continue its work, because to be free from racism is not a simple ideal, but an essential right for every dignified human being.” President Julie Sullivan responded by engaging in this conversation and shutting down classes for a day for an anti-racist teach-in, with her own action plan.

College is a time for all of us to learn, and not just about the periodic table or comma use, but about what it means to be human and how to talk about uncomfortable things in a healthy way. Let’s use our collective creativity and understanding to turn these incidents into productive conversations. Let’s start an anti-racism coalition at Hamline. The St.Thomas Coalition was absolutely right when they said to be free from racism is a basic human right, and we cannot begin to address that right without talking about it.

Philosopher Edmund Burke (or John Stuart Mill depending on who you ask) said, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing.” We must remember this, knowing that by saying nothing, we place ourselves on the wrong side of history. We must adopt a formal list of ways that Hamline will combat racism and anti-semitism, and recognize our own prejudices and biases as members of a small community. Only then can we exist as a university that nurtures our education and identities as human beings.

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The student news site of Hamline University.
Further action required for hate incident