Monday, October 16, 2006

"The fish stinks from the head"

I had not checked on the Israel news for a few days, what with the avalanche of Jewish holidays that just ended today, so I was quite surprised to discover that Police investigators recommend charging Katsav with rape and fraud. The President of Israel is being accused of "rape, sexual assault, eavesdropping, fraud, breach of trust, and improprieties in gift distribution." These accusations, which will probably form the basis of an indictment of Katsav, certainly prove the truth of the Hebrew saying that corruption comes from the top. It's definitely far more lurid and sensational than our latest political sex scandal in the U.S. involving Rep. Mark Foley.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Racist Graffiti

For my return to blogging, my first feature is a notice of resurging hate graffiti in one of the dorms at my place of employment.
On Sept. 4, Public Safety reported that swastikas were found drawn in permanent black marker on a bulletin board in Emerson. More swastikas appeared on stairwells and elevators Sept. 9, and again on Sept. 27 and 30, according to Courtney Bazan, residence director of Emerson Hall. Bazan said in the Sept. 30 case, the words “white power” were written on a vending machine in the Emerson laundry room. The Office of Public Safety said the graffiti incidents are not being classified as hate crimes.

Bazan said the swastikas were blatant.

“We had three in the elevator, and walking in there, I wanted to absolutely throw up when I saw them,” she said. “They’re not things that we take lightly.”
In one of my classes today, I led a discussion on the graffiti, and many issues were raised - does calling attention to racist graffiti simply gratify those who drew the swastikas? Were those who drew the graffiti racists? Or were they just drunken college students? Should the college do something about the graffiti (other than clean it off), and if so, what? What would motivate someone to do something like this? What role does alcohol play in offences like this? Is our campus really as diverse as the rhetoric makes it out to be? Where do people learn to do things like this - do they learn such prejudice at home? The usual questions that people ask when confronted with such expressions of hatred.

Two years ago, the college sponsored an "Erase the Hate" rally, which hundreds of students went to, in response to an earlier wave of racist and homophobic incidents and graffiti.

I think the institutional will is there to try to reduce such incidents as much as possible, but I suspect that even in the most progressive campus, it is impossible to completely get rid of racist expressions like this. Even if we were truly a more diverse campus, racially, religiously, and ethnically, there would still be students, staff, and faculty with racist beliefs. The problem then is to create enough pressure that people don't express such beliefs, either in words or in actions.