In the two weeks following the election of Donald Trump—after a campaign season characterized by racist and xenophobic rhetoric—there has been nationwide spike in racially motivated hate crimes. Though it is tempting to assume that these crimes are quarantined in distant parts of the country, they have arrived on our campus in very tangible ways. Last week, members of the Romance Languages and Literatures department were verbally and physically harassed mere blocks from Harvard Yard. Given the ethnic diversity of the department, the crimes are a clear result of the toxic ideals that Donald Trump has legitimized and injected into the national mainstream.
We unequivocally condemn the craven and odious actions against members of the RLL department and all other aggression against Harvard affiliates in the aftermath of the election. Furthermore, we commend the department for taking the time and effort to stand in solidarity with the members of their community through a public letter, and we fully support their calls to reaffirm and protect immigrant rights. Silence in the face of oppression is a far-too dangerous choice, so public statements that explicitly denounce hate crimes are critical.
In the same vein, the University must be more proactive in condemning hate crimes like these and guarantee that all students feel protected on this campus. Moreover, the Harvard University Police Department ought to take swift action to investigate these incidents and continue to ensure that community members are aware of available resources. Hotlines and bias reports will remain ineffective if members of this community do not know of their existence or feel unequipped to use them.
More broadly, these incidents speak to the atmosphere that president-elect Donald Trump has tacitly sanctioned, if not outright fostered throughout his campaign. In addition to his rhetoric, he has vacillated on the outspoken support he received from various white supremacist groups, reintroducing their loathsome ideas into the national mainstream and creating the backdrop on which these events were able to occur. Despite his flirtation with these groups, Trump has ignored his accountability for the aftershocks of his election. In his recent interview with “60 Minutes”, he ironically expressed surprise and dismay at the nationwide acts of harassment, assuming a presidential demeanor and urging the perpetrators to “stop it.” This disingenuous response misrepresents Trump’s levels of complicity with these fringe movements throughout his campaign—as evidenced by his equivocations on white supremacists—and he must take full responsibility, as the next president of the United States, to combat the animus he has stoked by his sins of both commission and omission.Students may believe that at Harvard University, and more broadly in the liberal bubble that is Cambridge, Harvard affiliates are sheltered from the realities of racism and xenophobia that plague the United States. These incidents prove otherwise, showing us that post-election hatred and prejudice corrode borders. In response to the current tumult and uncertainty, the Harvard community must support immigrants and other marginalized members of this community as they continue to call for an end to the hatred Trump has sanctioned.
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