Last week, as I sat at a routine lunch with friends at Coupa Cafe, I looked off into the distance and saw a swastika. After a double take, I was sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me — there, clearly painted on the stone facade of Green Library, was a small black symbol that represented the attempted extinction of my people.
I couldn’t focus for the rest of lunch — how was this jarring image of hate being left alone, glistening in the Stanford sun? I went back to my dorm and did the research. To my horror, this swastika was not an isolated incident. Instead, two separate sprees of hate crimes against the Jewish people were perpetrated on my very campus just within the last month — and I hadn’t even known.
In the following days, I received emails from Hillel alerting Jewish students of the crimes and providing resources for healing. I also received a fairly routine email from the University letting me know that these hate crimes didn’t stop at drawings but that university printers had been hacked to print flyers containing virulently anti-Semitic language and imagery. The email stated that “it is believed the drawings are intended to connote anti-Semitism” — not a far-fetched conjecture considering swastikas drawn early in January were accompanied by writings of “No Jews Allowed.” All in all, in the month of January, Stanford’s campus saw 17 swastikas drawn around the campus, some accompanied by directly anti-Semitic language, along with flyers resembling Nazi propaganda appearing across university printers. However, the odd part is, if you weren’t on Hillel’s email chain or closely reading every email you received from the University, you might not ever know.
I want every Stanford student to imagine for a second that a similar hate crime was committed against another minority community (recent estimates are that 10 percent of Stanford undergraduates are Jewish, firmly placing the community as a minority one). Ask yourself: What would the response be from University and student channels if there was a visible, direct and repeated instance of intolerance against Muslims or African-Americans on campus?
In response to Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning immigrants and refugees from predominantly Muslim countries — an abhorrent action that Jewish groups around the country have universally condemned — nearly every activist group on campus has staged events, rallies or protests, along with providing resources to help. This is an excellent example of the inclusive and proactive community that Stanford and its students have created — and yet, while events in Washington have received their deserved attention, intolerance right here on campus has been largely ignored. Perhaps activist groups are well-equipped to protest macro-injustice, but reluctant to confront it face to face. What non-Jewish group has held an event, protest or rally concerning the swastikas drawn all over our walls?
In response to the November election, the administration created a vast network of resources for affected and concerned students, offering therapy, comfort and discourse. In response to repeated and targeted hate crimes on campus, the University sent an email. They couldn’t even muster the manpower to clean the paint off of Green Library. The situation reminded me of an article written by students at the University of Chicago last year, entitled “Why are Jews the only minority we don’t protect on college campuses?”
To be clear, I have never heard a single Stanford student or faculty member utter anything anti-Semitic. I am amazed by how tolerant and inclusive every person I have met at Stanford is of other students’ race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality and religion. I also do not mean to compare the suffering or victimization of one group to another. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how such a prominent and hurtful episode was ignored by most of Stanford’s campus. I can’t help but wonder if even for as tolerant a campus as ours, politics, biases and pressures can get in the way of truly effective and just activism.
No one in the world should be subject to the insidious forces of hate and intolerance that are surfacing at an alarming rate. I am confident that Stanford is at the forefront of eradicating these forces from the world — but perhaps we have to start with our own campus.
— Micah Cash ‘20
Contact Micah Cash at mcash ‘at’ stanford.edu.