The historically Jewish fraternity house, Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) was marked with two swastikas in the early hours of Sunday morning, Oct. 5. This was a deplorable act of hatred, violence and intolerance, especially in light of the fact that members of the Jewish community observed Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays of the Jewish calendar, not two days earlier.
The news of this despicable act spread across the Emory community and beyond like wildfire. Members of AEPi and the Emory community called for University President James W. Wagner to condemn this act, and he responded to these requests with an e-mail to the entire University in less than 24 hours. The Student Government Association (SGA) responded similarly, condemning the act and urging the student body to wear blue on Oct. 6 to stand in solidarity with Emory’s Jewish community. News of this planned demonstration of solidarity was shared widely on Facebook, and I shared it myself.
I am glad Wagner and SGA denounced this crime. I am also glad SGA is supporting Emory’s Jewish community, and I wore blue on Oct. 6 as a sign of my personal support for this initiative. These responses are exactly how University administrators and institutions should have responded. I come from a Jewish family, and although I am not observant, I take personal comfort in knowing that my University and my peers will not tolerate what happened at AEPi.
I wonder, however, why Wagner and other University institutions have never been compelled to denounce acts of hatred, violence and intolerance against other communities at Emory in such a vigorous manner. In my time at Emory, Wagner has never sent an e-mail to the entire University in less than 24 hours after a sexual assault or rape was reported. SGA has never orchestrated a University wide show of support for an anonymous survivor of sexual assault or rape.
When “The Dooley Show” made a horrific and racist joke about lynching, the greater Emory community did not automatically rally behind its black students in any demonstration of solidarity. Wagner never sent an e-mail out to the community when a black student was followed by Emory Police at the Clairmont Campus. Acts of sexualized violence happen with much greater regularity than what happened on Sunday. Racist speech and violence against Emory’s students of color are also not uncommon.
Most anyone can see that what happened at AEPi was horrible and wrong. The violent and hateful message is plainly painted on the front of the building. A picture was taken, making it even easier to share what happened and spread rightful outrage.
Acts of sexualized and gendered violence and intolerance are less easy to spot. Most of the time, no one sees a sexual assault or rape happen. The after effects of sexual assault and rape are even less visible, especially because most of these crimes go unreported. There is often no “hard evidence” to point to, and thankfully, there are often no pictures shared on social media. Survivors of sexual assault and rape are often women, and they are disproportionately women of color and working class women, which are all groups that lack the institutional support and resources afforded to the men of AEPi.
Racist and intolerant displays, like the lynching reference on “The Dooley Show,” are also directed at a much less privileged group than AEPi. In my view, these facts are why Wagner does not send an email out denouncing sexual assault or rape when it happens to students on Emory’s campus. These are the reasons why the student body doesn’t band together to show survivors that they are in solidarity against sexualized and radicalized violence. When upper-class white men, which I would argue the majority of the members of AEPi would identify as, are harassed, there is great outrage. But when women and people of color are harassed, we do not see the same support from our administrators or our peers.
As a member of the Emory community, I want my President and my student government to denounce hate crimes against Jewish people. I want my peers to show that they will not tolerate anti-Semitism. But I also want my University to denounce all acts of violence, no matter the circumstances or the victims. We are all worthy of outrage and support, no matter our race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. I want my President to show his concern and sadness when the student body is notified about a reported sexual assault.
I want my peers to band together to show as much support for an anonymous survivor of rape as they have for AEPi and Emory’s Jewish population. I want to hear the outrage from white students when black students are harassed. I stand in solidarity with Emory’s Jewish community, and I eagerly await the day when the entire Emory community stands in solidarity with all victims of violence and intolerance.
Cara OrtÃz is a College senior from Larchmont, New York and the co-president of Feminists in Action at Emory.