Sunday, March 2, 2008

Stand up against hate

By Benjamin Chaidell

I'm sure everyone has gotten tons of e-mails about the swastika and SS symbols on Friday night. It's been great to see so much awareness raised about this incident. But more has to be done than mere condemnation. It's very easy to say, "That's wrong" or "I disagree with a swastika on Old Campus." What bothered me most about the swastika and SS symbol was not that one person perversely put these up, but that on a Friday night in the center of campus many Yalies stood by silently as elaborately drawn SS and swastika symbols were sculpted in their midst. Many, I'm sure, disapproved of what they saw, but they didn't think it a big enough deal to interrupt their evening, That attitude will not solve the problems that led to this act of hate. We must take an active stance against stereotpyes and prejudice within our community.

Seeing the swastika reminded me just how much hate hurts. When I heard about the racist grafitti on the walls of Pierson or "We love Yale sluts," I thought these incidents represented a despicable, but also marginalized and insignificant opinion on campus. I was among the ranks of Yalies who did not see the need for a rally at Commons against hate. It only gives those who committed these acts the attention they crave, I reasoned. While still not the biggest fan of a rally in this case, I now understand the impassioned reaction. I now read opinion columns about how the swastika is like a "CCCP" shirt of the Soviet Union and hear friends ask what the big deal is. It strikes me that only weeks ago I played the same role.

Now I seek to be more sensitive to any act of bigotry, since I now know how it feels to be its target. An attack against one of our community is an attack against all. A German pastor provided a chilling reminder of this fact when he reflected on the Holocaust.

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemoller

Let us speak out for each other here at Yale, and help build an even stronger and better community.