At Coe College, where I teach, nearly 100 members of the community responded yesterday to a call by the student organization Multicultural Fusion to stand in silent protest during the noon hour. Late last week, a poster like this one...
...was defaced with swastikas. The group's call was spread by David McInally, President of the college, and Kristin Hutson, college chaplain, and the protesters included faculty and staff as well as students.
I counted about 30 there shortly after I arrived, but then a whole bunch more came so we might have had 100. We stood in a mass in front of the Union; those in front, the first arrivers, held posters of the type that was defaced. We stayed silent, though I smiled at people I knew, and a reporter for the campus newspaper went about interviewing some of us. People on their way to the cafeteria mostly ignored us, but a few smiled. One young (white) man shouted twice with evident irony, "All white people are racist!" Not all seeds bloom at once.
On one level, this response might seem like overkill, an excessive reaction to what surely was a petty act by a maladjusted young person. But I don't think it is overkill. Our common life, in Cedar Rapids, in America, on planet Earth, depends on our ability to live with each other, arguably moreso than ever before. That's what this is all about... not casting individuals or groups as victims, which can only lead to the pointless competition I call the Victim Olympics. Let's not play that.
An act against any part of the community, whether it be the act of a young vandal, or any of the vile and disgusting things Donald Trump has spewed about assorted groups he wants to stigmatize for fun and profit, is an act against the whole community. And so it's right the whole community should rise up and condemn it, because in doing so the community reaffirms its own existence.
MORE ON DIVERSITY: "Strength through Diversity (II)," 9 March 2014, http://brucefnesmith.blogspot.com/2014/03/strength-through-diversity-ii.html