There’s a common belief that academia is absent of the same racism that can be found in the rest of the world. That comes with the assumption that education is the antithesis of ignorance. But that’s still yet to be proven as the number of hate crimes in the United States has spiked in recent weeks, with a considerable number of them occurring in schools.
The most recent incident occurred on the University of Chicago’s campus.
This past Monday, university officials confirmed reports that racist and anti-semitic stickers were found on campus. The stickers reportedly showed Hitler standing before a backdrop of swastikas with “Hail victory!” – the English translation of “Sieg heil” – and “Hitler disapproves”.
According to NBC Chicago, one of the stickers was found in the Center for Identity + Inclusion, which is a regular meeting location for the university’s minority community including LGBTQIA+, differently-abled, immigrant, and non-white students and faculty.
The Chicago Maroon, the university’s newspaper, reports that a militant Neo-nazi group called The Atomwaffen Division has claimed responsibility for the stickers.
A tweet from a now-suspended Twitter account of the same name read, “University of Chicago got stickercausted tonight by Chicago’s local Nazis: Atomwaffen Division@IronMarch.”
“Yesterday posters with disturbing Nazi imagery were found and immediately removed from multiple buildings on our campus,” said Provost Daniel Diermeier in a statement. “The University is investigating these unauthorized postings, which reflect attitudes that fundamentally contradict the University’s commitment to fostering a welcoming campus for individuals of diverse backgrounds.”
A meeting was held at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (CSRPC) on Tuesday where 40-50 students and faculty members were in attendance to discuss the incident.
Michael Dawson, John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College and Director of the CSRPC, was in attendance at the meeting and could cite three distinct reactions from the university community. The first being outrage and a call for solidarity, the second being a pushback from individuals ripping up posters meant to show solidarity and even writing “Trump” across them, and the final being a response of indifference by those who would rather only focus on their academics.
Unfortunately, this incident isn’t exclusive to UChicago. Multiple reports of similar incidents have come up across the country at multiple institutions. While this could be a sign of things to come under a Trump administration, racism has long been present in academia.
“It’s part of a system of white supremacy that we’ve had to deal with on campus for generations. My parents had to deal with it,” said Dawson . “I told my students yesterday that we had to deal with several extremely violent, racist incidents while I was an undergraduate at Stanford. But it is also a spike, so it’s both part of a systematic structure of white supremacy that gets manifested on college campuses, on one hand. But it’s also that people are emboldened by the victory of Trump and a move towards a neo-fascism in the country.”
After a similar incident occured in October at UChicago, Provost Diermeier adds that the university “will continue to be vigilant against such incidents and address them when they occur, as the law and University policies permit.”
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