Verbum Ultimum: Responding to Hatred

Dartmouth’s tolerance of racism enables violence in its community.

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 2/15/19 2:20am

The sense of disgust in one’s mouth is palpable when reading the racist anonymous messages sent to students and faculty members over the past few months. Thus far, at least 18 students and three faculty members have been targeted by racist and sexually explicit messages — that two of those students had been physically targeted with slurs put on their doors only makes the matter more disturbing. That most of the targets appeared to be Asian, and that this fact played a role in the bigoted mocking present in the messages is even more loathsome.  

The vile nature of these messages is only rivaled by the cowardice. Though the messages were sent from four separate accounts, it is unclear whether they were all sent by one person or a coordinated group. Regardless, there is little doubt that these racist emails came from within the campus community. That reality should give significant pause to all who presumed Dartmouth’s liberal veneer to be genuine. 

Though this series of hateful messages is particularly disturbing, racist incidents and a culture of indifference toward malice have been commonplace in Dartmouth’s recent history. This is a campus that currently tolerates the relatively common tattooing of racial caricatures on people in the name of school spirit and tradition. For those who do not wish to imprint the Dartmouth Indian Head onto their skin, fear not; “traditional” paraphernalia ranging from clothing to figurines to posters and art are commonplace in Greek houses, dorm rooms and study areas. 

In the aftermath of a pong table featuring the Dartmouth Indian Head being stolen from Theta Delta Chi fraternity in 2016, fliers encouraging students to “Celebrate Columbus Day all year” littered campus. Native American students were subsequently harassed and stalked in the following weeks. After the Freedom Budget protests of 2014, students received death threats, racist epithets and sexually explicit threats of violence. Both incidents draw parallels to the present by having featured vicious cyber-attacks through the anonymous, now defunct, chat sites Bored@Baker and YikYak. 

This is also a campus that has witnessed national headline-breaking parties made famous for their racist themes. Widely advertised and attended parties with themes including the gang-inspired “Bloods and Crips,” and Latin-appropriative “Phiesta” have all graced Dartmouth’s social scene within the past six years. 

The tacit endorsement that the community’s collective tolerance of these actions indicates is dangerous because it enables far more serious offenses. By accepting a culture that tolerates racist behavior on the macro level, Dartmouth allows more extreme offenders room to germinate and eventually violate in the community. 

One of the worst things the administration could do in response to these horrible actions would be to hastily cobble together an initiative ostensibly meant to combat racism at the College, likely built without a firm infrastructure to address the problem. Stating “Mission Accomplished” at the outset is a trap that the community cannot afford to gamble on; the safety and security of students hangs in the balance. 

Another poor course of action would be to act as if these incidents never happened or were simply isolated occurrences, an unseemly set of circumstances that will pass at the end of the College’s current investigation. Only a concerted, deliberate and thoughtful grappling with both the eventually found perpetrators as well as the culture that enabled them will ultimately ameliorate the situation at Dartmouth. 

Perhaps the perpetrator has no goal other than sick pleasure or spite. More likely, cowardly attacks like these are demonstrative of well-treaded, tired tactics always used for one sinister goal: terror. They are meant to cow students away from participation in the broader Dartmouth community. Their purpose is to instill fear, paranoia and resentment in their targets. The Dartmouth community — students, faculty, alumni, administrators, concerned friends and family — cannot tolerate such vicious attacks in the slightest. 

As a community, it is imperative that Dartmouth does not allow this event to pass unaddressed. It will take more than a forceful show of solidarity with the targeted victims to refute these attacks. Many of the attacked students and professors have preferred to remain anonymous given the intimate nature of the attacks. That reality is all the more reason why students must be supportive of each other in uncertain times. Second to the trial and expulsion of the perpetrator, the best thing that the Dartmouth community could do to challenge this individual, or group of individuals, is to show that their tactics will not work here. A consensus of kinship and mutual respect is necessary to make clear that bigotry and racism are not welcome on this campus. In these moments, silence is approval. 

The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, both executive editors and the editor-in-chief.