As morning classes let out on Nov. 16, Macalester students, faculty and staff moved en masse toward the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center for a campus-wide walk-in against hate.
Attendees packed the balcony, the staircase, the atrium and the entryway to, per the event’s description, “stand up and speak out against hate in our community.”
Muslim Student Association (MSA) leader Tasneem Issa ’18 was one of the organizers of the entirely student-led event. She began by acknowledging the inciting force behind the event: the discovery of nine swastikas and one anti-Arab message drawn in various locations across campus.
“We must strongly condemn the sentiment that these symbols represent and also recognize that hatred – whether it be racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, or many other forms of hate – has long existed on the Macalester campus,” Issa said.
She explained that the walk-in was intended to be a forum for inciting change, and not merely a reflection of the pain caused by hatred on campus.
Ayaan Natala ’18 was one of the first students to speak. She was skeptical that the event really would produce concrete change.
“I thought this event was like the safety pin thing after the election, where people come here and are like, ‘Wow, we were together, we bonded for a couple of hours, and I feel good and I did my work,’” Natala said. “I’m here to say that that’s not good enough.”
“I think that one thing that gives me hope about this event is because faculty and staff are here,” she continued. “Maybe if staff and faculty can hear this, then maybe that will make them think that this isn’t just students’ work – that it’s all of our work.”
After Natala spoke, organizers passed around microphones for students and faculty to share their thoughts. Some shared experiences as people of color on campus, others called out white students for being complicit in the perpetuation of racism on campus, and others still critiqued the walk-in itself for not presenting any opportunities to take direct action.
Joanna Seifter ’20 attended the event in the hopes of hearing open discussion about the swastikas and anti-Arab hate speech.
“I thought that [the walk-in] was really general because even though they had a wide variety of speakers, and they didn’t really touch upon anything specific,” Seifter said. “Being specific is really important when you’re talking about hateful events.”
Despite a large turnout for the event, next steps to combat hate on campus remain unclear. According to Issa, the walk-in must be the beginning of a greater campus movement rather than the end of one.
“We want to think about how we can hold ourselves accountable and show up for each other,” Issa said. “We strongly believe that our community has the power to shape our culture to be respectful, supportive, and inclusive for everyone on campus.”