The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Editorial: Election aftermath

Unacceptable, hateful incidents committed in Philadelphia

On Nov. 8, America elected a new president: Donald Trump, candidate of the Republican party, businessman, and a Washington, D.C. political outsider. The American people took a chance on Donald Trump, a man preceded by his reputation, who, as a former reality TV star, proved critics wrong by reaching the highest level of office for any individual in our democracy.

The next day, a swastika was spray-painted on an empty storefront on Broad Street in South Philadelphia. Villanova University is currently investigating a Nov. 12 incident in which several white men who were chanting, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” assaulted a black female student and pushed her to the ground. At the University of Pennsylvania, black freshmen students were targeted by a University of Oklahoma student who added them to a group chat called “N***** Lynching,” specifically targeting these students of color with hate speech. On Saturday, Nov. 12, a Drexel University professor found her car vandalized with the phrase “It’s our p***y now, b***h.” In South Philadelphia, a man walking home had homophobic slurs yelled at him and beer bottles thrown at him as he walked through the United States Marine Corps 241st birthday celebration block party.

Villanova is only 6.4 miles away from our campus. Penn is 5.6 miles away. Drexel is 4.6 miles away.

Regardless of our individual reactions to the election, the reality is that since the results were announced, some individuals have taken the opportunity to spread hateful beliefs in the public sphere. These acts are not new to our country, but they have intensified since Trump’s election. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that 201 incidents of “election-related harassment” have taken place across the country as of Nov. 11. Not only is this happening across the nation, it is happening here, only miles away from our own home at Saint Joseph’s University.

Violence and hate only cause harm; this fact is undisputed. It’s clear that the consequences of violence, like what happened to the Villanova student and the South Philly man, and derogatory speech are not productive, and the fear incited by these acts damages more than just the people who are affected firsthand—it also attacks our peace of mind.

While these actions may well be the work of extremists, they call into question the concept of culpability: How did we, as a country, get here? As 20-somethings, we too often forget that our country’s history reaches back much farther. We don’t have to look back very far to see that our societal attitude concerning equality, tolerance, and civil liberties has shifted immensely just within the past 50 years.

In regards to St. Joe’s itself, acts of hate have occurred much more recently than many of us on campus may be aware of. Eight years ago, on Nov. 5, 2008, The Hawk reported an incident in which someone drew a depiction of a black man being lynched, presumably meant to represent then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. The coverage included multiple letters to the editor, outraged that the school was not taking racism and inclusion seriously on campus. The university’s immediate lack of action led many students to feel unsafe. These messages of hate and the fear they cause have not gone away; now, they just manifest themselves differently.

Our University President, Mark C. Reed, Ed. D., acknowledged recent hateful acts on other campuses in his Nov. 14 email to the student body. He called for St. Joe’s to “…understand that our own community on Hawk Hill includes those who are celebrating the victory of the candidate they supported, those who are grieving and sense a true loss, and, regrettably, those who feel scared, uncomfortable, and even unsafe.”

But how can we, as young Americans, put a stop to this hate that transcends political affiliation and separates us from each other? How can we ensure that incidents like those at the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova, and Drexel do not happen at St. Joe’s? There aren’t clear answers to these questions, but we think that the best way to move forward is to adopt the Jesuit ideal of reflection and look inward.

Our everyday words and actions carry a lot of weight, especially in light of these hateful incidents so close to our campus, but we’re all guilty of failing to realize this fact. Maybe you didn’t personally use a derogatory term to describe the gay couple you walked past on the way to class today, but did you speak up when someone else did? Maybe you’ve never posted anything political on your social media profiles, but did you “like” the viral, racist joke you saw in your news feed? Maybe you would never consider yourself sexist, but did you get a laugh out of the tweets mocking Melania Trump for her former modeling career?

It is by no means easy to change habitual behaviors like these, or to be the one to stand up to a friend when they make a comment that you know isn’t right. But by allowing small instances of hate like these to slip through the cracks, you, too, risk becoming complicit in the perpetuation of toxic rhetoric and ignorance in America. If you’re adding to the conversation—even by favoriting an inappropriate tweet—you have a hand in legitimizing hate, no matter who you are or what political beliefs you stand for. We have a moral obligation to agree that the hateful and often violent acts occurring on our fellow college campuses, in our city, and across our country must end, and this is how we can attempt to make a dent. This responsibility falls on all of us.

It’s much easier to condemn the few instead of facing the many, but the reality is that we can have a hand in stopping hate. We can become aware of how hate starts and we can make changes in our own lives to prevent it.

Look around.

Now is not the time to be complacent, not when post-election backlash is happening only six miles away from our campus, and especially not when our university calls us to live up to a greater calling.

What does living greater truly mean?

It means reporting incidents of bias to the Office of Inclusion and Diversity if you see them on campus. It means interrupting your friend who has made an inappropriate joke about the LGBTQ+ community. It means being willing to put yourself in another’s shoes and understanding why this presidential election makes them afraid. And yet, it even goes beyond a culmination of these actions. We can find the essence of “living greater” in refusing to be bystanders. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Our Jesuit education and values call us to stand up to injustice, whether or not we are directly affected by it.

Only when we acknowledge or become aware that hateful incidents like these are happening can we address them. To do so, we need to understand and accept the reality of the potentially harmful messages we encounter on a daily basis and work to prevent them. We can see how our neighbors, no matter their political affiliation, are feeling and show enough decency to listen.

These small steps won’t end the hate overnight, but they will begin to create and maintain a culture on this campus where such acts are not tolerated. As persons who are with and for others, we strongly condemn the violence and hate that has occurred in Philadelphia as the result of the election, and as active members of this community, such hate so close to our campus is not something we can ignore. And we will not ignore it.

Take a meaningful stand for what is Jesuit, and furthermore, for what is just.
– Hawk Staff

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