Earlier today, we received a forwarded email from a friend with the headline “Hate Crimes at St. Olaf.” The email was from an individual who identified himself as “Stephen, a PhD candidate here in Minnesota” who is also involved with the Students for Justice in Palestine organizations at both the University of Minnesota and St. Olaf. According to Stephen, “after the SJP chapter at St. Olaf posted a display for their annual Palestine Awareness Week, two large Palestinian flags that were part of the display were stolen. Soon after someone wrote ‘Death to Gaza’ on one of the posters on the display, and several other posters by an SJP member were stolen.” The administration at St. Olaf is apparently downplaying this problem by labeling the acts as “incivility,” rather than what they should be called: hate crimes.
Although we (obviously) do not attend St. Olaf, these events concerned us nonetheless. These acts of vandalism and theft represent hatred against Palestinian students, and deserve to be labeled as such. The fact that the administration at St. Olaf would downplay them as such is disheartening, especially since, as “Stephen” pointed out in his email, there is a good chance that they would be labeled as such if the graffiti said “Death to Israel.” However, because of the propaganda against Palestine, particularly in the American media, the St. Olaf administration has refused to acknowledge this crime properly.
During this same week - as I’m sure many people have heard by now - nearby (and very liberal) Oberlin College cancelled classes after hateful graffiti and a potential sighting of someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit on campus. The Oberlin response was significantly swifter and more progressive than the St. Olaf administration had been, although the indicents were admittedly more prominent. But it has also spurred some thought about the insular nature of liberal arts communities, where discussions about prejudice are often swept under the rug.
Calling for the death of someone’s home country is a threatening and hateful message, especially when scrawled across the window of their house. More importantly, it is unacceptable, and should have been denounced swiftly. I cannot imagine the same dulled effect occurring at Carleton - but then, I’m sure many St. Olaf students would have felt the same way.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that this event shocked me - and I hope that it shocks any other students who hear about it. Perhaps this incidentt, as awful as it is, can be used to facilitate some of the discussions that we so artfully avoid on this campus.