Saturday morning, many of us woke up to the circulating photo of a Swastika drawn in the snow on our own football field. I am in absolute disbelief that a group of people took the time to express their hatred and intolerance toward certain marginalized groups of people.
The Swastika was used as an emblem for Nazis during the Holocaust, representing a horrifying genocide that killed around six million Jews in the most disturbing ways. The Swastika represents intolerance toward Jewish people and countless other groups targeted during the Holocaust such as homosexuals, people of colour, people with disabilities and communists. It is also used today by neo-Nazi, white supremacist movements to continually enact violence upon Jewish people and racialized minorities.
I have become accustomed to comments about my membership to the Jewish community and my Middle Eastern heritage. These microaggressions, including jokes about my nose and comments about money, are accompanied by ignorant assumptions about where my family and I come from and how we practise our religion. Though frustrating to face these unpleasant encounters on campus and at parties, I have never felt unsafe at Mount Allison on the basis of my membership to Judaism. This is no longer the case.
To those who believe this may have been an isolated event, an ill-thought-out intoxicated decision made at 2 a.m., or simply a distasteful joke, I firmly believe it means much more than that. I am disgusted that this symbol was deliberately drawn in a place students walk by every single day. This act of hatred serves as a reminder that our interpersonal differences are hierarchical and that those not benefitting from the top position of this hierarchy will continue to experience violence. Racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry are perpetuated here, despite assertions that Mt. A is always a welcoming community.
Whoever did this has shown far more than intolerance. This act of violent hatred serves to instill fear in us and make us feel unsafe in the same space where we study. Before the perpetrators had been identified, I walked around campus fearing that I had crossed paths with them at the grocery store, sat next to them in class, or even called one of them my friend. Now we know that the perpetrators are complete strangers and are neither a part of the student body nor residents of Sackville. Regardless of who they are, by drawing a Swastika, they are proclaiming that they hate me, my family, my culture.
I believe that the timing of this vicious behaviour was not random. Racists, anti-Semites and homophobes are encouraged by an increasing tolerance of the oppressive mentalities that support their distasteful beliefs. This act occurred on a campus where the term “feminazi” was used casually and where students of colour have expressed experiencing racism through micro- and macro-aggressions, both at school and in Sackville itself.
Despite the hurt and victimization I feel, I also feel comforted by the fact that a community exists that will not tolerate anti-Semitism, homophobia, racism and hate. Another unidentified person stepped onto the football field, drawing the word “Hope” in the snow, turning the Swastika into a capital “H.” It is the actions of these people, people who work to compensate for others’ hate, that create a community that will not tolerate aggression justified by difference. In a world where we must tirelessly fight for equality, it is these actions that continue to give me hope.