Beloit community rallies in response to hate crimes
In the wake of a series of hate crimes directly targeted against Jewish and Muslim students on the Beloit College campus, hundreds of students, faculty, administrators and community members gathered on Monday, Jan. 30 in the Flood Arena on the Beloit campus to stand in solidarity.
“In one week, we’ve witnessed and experiences the ugliest forms of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and misogyny,” said Beloit College President Scott Bierman, addressing the crowd. “There are many of you that I can see right now in front of me who are suffering, scared and hurt, and none of you deserve to feel that way. You are victims of senseless hatred.”
“It is clear that someone on this campus wants us to be silent, but we will not be silent,” said Desireé Amboree’18, the president of Theta Pi Gamma and a member of the executive board of Students for an Inclusive Campus. “Right now, our Jewish peers and our Muslims peers need our support….We should give them a place to grieve, to feel, to love and to rage. We should also give them a place to fight.”
In discussing how to properly respond to the hate crimes — which involved racial slurs and swastikas being directly targeted at two students of minority faiths and ethnicities — Bierman conceded that he was at a loss.
“I want to fix it, I want to fix it now and I want to make it better,” he said, “yet I know that is way beyond my skills.”
Bierman did call on every person in attendance to do their part to protect the “generous, kind, thoughtful and caring” community that Beloit College has strived to create.
“We have missed too many of these opportunities in the past,” Bierman added. “These are not the first acts of hatred community members have endured. Yet we come together to denounce the most recent acts and we need to stop reliving these.”
Willow Wallis’19, the president of the Beloit Student Congress, echoed the need for students to stand up against the hateful acts. “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism will not be tolerated on our campus,” they said.
Messages of unity and solidarity made up the lion’s share of the remarks at the event. “If we want a Beloit College that does not tolerate anti-Semitism, that does not tolerate Islamophobia, that does not tolerate hate toward any group of people and promotes equity for all, then we must make it,” said Sarah Tweedale, the Sustained Dialogue Coordinator at Beloit College.
Dean of Students Christina Klawitter echoed these sentiments in stronger terms, saying, “We have to be brave enough to stand up to this bullshit hate that is going on. I’m so over this and I know you are too.”
There were also calls for self-reflection and interrogating power structures, most notably from Associate Professor of Anthropology and president of the Beloit School Board Lisa Anderson-Levy.
“People have been asking since the first event a couple of years ago and now, ‘How could this happen here?’” said Anderson-Levy. “Well, this could happen here because this is America and this is what happens in America.
“What are you doing in your lives every day?” continued Anderson-Levy. “Who are you talking to? Who are you reaching out to? How many boundaries have you argued or fought or loved across today? Any? If the answer is none, then you need to step up.”
The event finished with a plea from Bill Conover, director of the Spiritual Life Program at Beloit, for the community to come together with “tender and fierce compassion.”
“Our vision of a pluralist, non-violent, inclusive community of inquiry is vulnerable,” said Conover. “Only if we work to own it, to protect it, to cherish it…will it stand.”