Hate at Harvard
While we were walking by the Lampoon building, a car slowed down, and two men in the car started shouting at us, calling us “faggots.” Somewhat upset, I shouted back that they should not make such remarks here. As soon as I took a step towards them and responded to their verbal attacks, they stopped the car, stepped out, and continued shouting homophobic slurs. It all happened so quickly.
I was shocked and frozen while I was thrown against a wall and punched repeatedly. Luckily, my friend called the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) and officers arrived in under a minute. I have cuts, bruises, and lumps on my chest, my back is sore, and a large area of my head is swollen and throbbing painfully. The day after, as I sat the holding ice packs to my head and popping ibuprofen every four hours to dull the pain, I felt completely disconnected—as if I were watching myself on a theater-sized screen.
Even though I feel physical pain, I am still shocked, confused, and in denial that a hate crime could occur in the midst of campus. Many questions are swirling through my head unanswered: How should I respond to verbal attacks next time? Should I show affection towards my male friends in public? Should I ignore slurs like “faggot” as I walk around on campus, or should I confront them? Which is more important, standing up for my community or preserving my health?
These are all questions that we shouldn’t have to ask. But we do. This is the second BGLTSA dance out of three this year where such an incident occurred. Even if these were the only incidents to have occurred, and even if there weren’t a problem of under-reporting of anti-BGLT hate crimes, isolated cases of bigotry are unacceptable. The assault has violated the safety of our community.
Although the attack was physically directed at a single member of our community, it was a symbolic attack on all BGLT students on campus. We stand in solidarity with Galo, and this attack hurts us all. With his assault fresh in our minds, no same-sex couples will walk hand-in-hand with the same sense of security that we felt just a few days ago.
The myriad fences and neo-Georgian facades make Harvard appear to be the ultimate asylum from violence of all types. Ivy walls, after all, house books and minds, not hate. In a homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic world, however, even the safest places are not exempt from hate crimes. Moreover, we should all remember that Galo was not alone, or even in a couple—he was with a group of friends. Even when we are in what seem to be relatively risk-free situations, we must continue to protect our safety.
This is a time for us to contemplate what the presence of hate crimes at Harvard means for us as potential victims, as supporters, and as concerned community members. This is also a time for us to act. There are steps that we can take to make Harvard a safer place for all its students, and now is the time for people to step up and show their support. We must make it clear that acts of hate are unacceptable here.
The BGLTSA will be holding a rally this Tuesday at noon, and we invite anyone concerned to come and voice his or her own experience or opinion. We will also be circulating fuchsia bandanas with an anti-hate message for people to display as they choose. We must remind everyone that an attack against one is an attack against all. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
For those who feel personally affected by this incident, there are resources on campus that you can access. Contact is a confidential peer counseling service that specializes in issues of sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, and relationships. University Health Services mental services and the Bureau of Study Counsel offer professional support. If people see or experience any other situations of harassment or violence due to hate or other reasons, HUPD can be reached at 495-1212. We would like to compliment HUPD for the great job they did in this case and in others that we have heard about this year.
Unfortunately anti-BGLT hate crimes and harassment do happen and are under-reported. Harvard may be safer than most other places in the world, but it is not safe enough. This time, the assailants were not Harvard students. Last time, they were. Right now, we, as a community, need to sit back and reflect: on what has happened, on what that means about our safety, on what that says about Harvard, and on what we need to do to respond.
Galo Garcia III ’05 is a chemistry concentrator affiliated with Mather House. Michael A. Feldstein ’07, a Crimson editorial editor, is a social studies concentrator in Mather House. He is Public Relations Chair of the BGLTSA.