Written April 30, 2017
Hate crimes against students of color have been happening at St. Olaf. A student or a group of students have been the writing the N-word around campus and sending notes to black students to tell them to go away. The administration has been addressing the issue by sending out solidarity emails, but the student body demands more.
St. Olaf advertises itself as a community, and therefore, any incidents that defy this value are often swept under the rug until they get too big to go unnoticed. The N-word incidents have been happening since the beginning of the year. The writings were found in student dorms, the library and science building. Black students have had their cars scribbled with the N-word and received anonymous hate notes. As a student of color myself, I strongly sympathize with black students who have been targeted in these racist incidents. Throughout my college years, I have been involved in enough extracurricular and academic activities to experience discrimination full force and know that racism is very real.
Despite the frustration from the student body, all the actions that the student body received from the administration have been solidarity emails. This is not enough. St. Olaf, as a college, is capable of pursuing these hate crimes through multiple resources, internally and externally. Months have passed with only solidarity emails from the president of St Olaf and the Deans of Students. The lockdown, on April 29, emphasized the power of students of color and taught the administration the true definition of “community.” I am proud to be locked up and to be angered by the stories that victims of discrimination have to tell. Students who have the privilege to not experience discrimination need to be educated, and the lockdown provided them with a glance of the discomfort that students of color undergo on a daily basis. Victims of hate crimes feel uncomfortable and unsafe at St. Olaf. Their daily lives are disrupted, and they suffer sleep deprivation. The lockdown was an impressive and effective event, and it taught those who attended to sympathize with and to love one another. The big turnout at the event was the beauty of community and of effective activism.
The lockdown empowered many students to speak up. I learned that there are international female students who have received text messages with offensive words used for Asian women, and I hope these cases will be reported. The St. Olaf student body does not tolerate perpetrators of discrimination. After the event, I hope St. Olaf will reflect on its value as a community and will grow and learn to love its members as humans. If any students find themselves in the powerless population, always remember that there is power in numbers.
Jenny Dao ‘17 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Vung Tau, Vietnam. She majors in Economics and Political Science.