A year ago this week, a series of hate crimes were committed, targeting people whom the aggressors identified as queer. A woman came back to her dorm room to find the word “dyke” written across her door. In the following weeks, a number of students repeatedly received anonymous mail telling them that “God hates fags/dykes” and that they should go “eat some pussy” or “suck some dick.”
While the vandalism and the hate mail came as a horrible shock to many on this campus, others saw it as a large-scale example of what many members of our community (that is, the Grinnell community) experience throughout their time on campus.
It’s easy to talk about “The Year of the Hate Crimes” or the “Swastika Incident of 2005.” It’s easy to convince ourselves that these are isolated incidents, committed either by people who are “un-Grinnellian” or who do not actually go here. People claimed that they saw “townies” in the loggias, and we tried to convince ourselves that they must have sent the letters.
However, these are not isolated incidents, and they are continually committed by Grinnellians. Within the past few months, students have been harassed for dancing romantically with a partner of the same sex, a student had a glass bottle thrown at them because of their non-normative gender expression, and students presenting on behalf of a group for students of color had a trustee yell at them that “separate is never equal.”
The events of last spring have had a lasting effect on many on this campus. We remain angry, sad, fearful, and deeply hurt. We are angry that while there was an amazing outpouring of conversations and support immediately after the hate crimes, this wave has lapsed. We are sad that these events have been so easily forgotten and ignored by many. We are fearful that at any time this could happen again. We are deeply hurt because many of our friends, our peers, our professors, and our administrators remain unwilling to engage in sustained dialogue around these issues.
As we remember last year’s hate crimes and become more conscious of the prevalence of homophobia, heterosexism, racism, classism, sexism, ableism and other forms of oppression on this campus, we need to challenge ourselves to question the language and actions of others as well as to look introspectively at our own use of language and choice of actions. With each new class, institutional memory fades. It is essential that we start remembering, stop making excuses, and take pride in creating an inclusive, safe, and supportive environment for all members of the Grinnell community.