Last night, sometime around 9.30, there was a knock at my door. I live in a faculty residence on campus, so I knew that this was going to be a student, but I also knew immediately that something was wrong, because my students never just drop by.
Standing on my doorstep, visibly shaking, was a white student of mine who has been particularly active in anti-racism organizing on campus — he’s been actively involved in the movement to develop a general education requirement on the Dynamics of Difference and Power, and he’s organized workshops for white students who feel solidarity with students of color on campus but who have never learned how to discuss questions surrounding race. He asked me if I’d been out in the parking lot lately, and then told me what he knew of what had happened.
What had happened was this: a visiting professor in social psychology at the college just immediately north of ours had spoken yesterday afternoon at a forum on hate speech, and quite volubly decried the covert racism and apathy she found on campus. Sometime after the forum, but before about 8.00 pm, her car was vandalized. Her tires were slashed, her windows were smashed in, and the words “K*ke Whore” and “N*gger Lover” and “Shut Up, Bitch!” were spray-painted on the car.
Our crack local police force has, in a triumph of deductive logic, managed to classify this as a hate crime.
Last night, students, administrators, and a few faculty members gathered around the car, and then in one of the dining halls, to discuss what was happening. Our president has cancelled all classes for today. Meetings, marches, sit-ins, and community meals have been scheduled in their place.
I am convinced, after a restless night of self-examination, that a tacit community acceptance of the earlier racist events as somehow being less than serious, not intentional, “just an insensitive joke,” and so forth, has allowed the racism that dwells in our midst to feel comfortable enough here to make itself plainly visible.
I’m too upset even to cry.