On Sunday night, a large, red, swastika was painted over a mural commemorating the lives lost in the Tree of Life shooting. While this event is horrific, it is not surprising. Since the mural went up, I have been holding my breath, waiting.
I have been a Duke student for three months. In that time, I have seen rampant incidents of hate speech. Beginning with the scrawling of a racial slur onto a sign for the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, it seems that every week there is a new bigoted act on campus. Duke is only a microcosm of the atmosphere of hatred and tension in our country at large, but the sheer proliferation of these incidents here says something about our campus environment.
Many argue that these acts, especially those occurring in public locations like the East Campus Bridge, may not have been committed by students. However, even if no students are involved, it doesn’t mean Duke is blameless. The fact is, someone believes that Duke is a place where people can express bigotry without fear of retribution.
Affronts like this damage the bonds of Duke as a whole. Students of marginalized groups no longer feel safe on campus. Though every student I have met condemns these actions, it is impossible to know which of them cares for more than a passing second.
I believe the only solution is to have a campus-wide discussion of what we will and will not tolerate. Duke must define hate speech and hate crimes, and create a specific policy for addressing them. We must all take responsibility for the actions occurring on campus. Those of us who can ignore bigotry because we are not directly affected must re-examine how far we will allow injustice to pervade before we take action. We must make it clear to ourselves, our applicants, our donors and Durham that Duke is no longer a place where bigotry will be ignored.
Thalia Halloran is a Trinity first-year.