This week, I am walking around this campus like my world’s on fire. But for many others, they do not recognize my fire. Instead, they are consumed with deciding what costumes to wear for Halloween parties.
On Saturday, one of my friends dressed up as a Hasidic Jew. He was wearing a beard and payos, which are sidelocks worn by Orthodox boys and men. I showed up to the party late, but I was the first one to act on his culturally inappropriate costume. Luckily, my friend was understanding and truly listened to why I deemed his costume inappropriate and hurtful and he changed.
Yes, it was a considerate thing for him to listen to me and change his costume. But I could not stop wondering why it took a Jewish person to notice it was wrong. Why did it take nearly an hour for him to change? And why do I constantly have to be the one to explain and defend my culture?
Our community is, at its best, apathetic.
On campus, it is too easy to hide from the discomfort of other’s experiences. We can decide to be involved in clubs and activities, but isolate ourselves from others. We claim our campus is growing in diversity, but it is too easy to surround ourselves with people who look and think like us. We claim we care about politics and the problems facing our country, but are hesitant to vote. We claim we care about each other, but fail to recognize these offenses to others’ differences.
My friends’ failures to recognize or speak out against the offensive nature of the costume demonstrates the passivity of our campus culture. Just because someone does not directly offend us does not mean we should stand there and normalize these acts of ignorance. Our apathy on campus is condoning the growth of hatred across the country. Viewing these transgressions against minorities as innocent and meaningless ultimately normalizes intolerance and creates a space for the development of hatred.
Anti-Semitism has been growing across Europe and the United States for the past decade. With Holocaust survivors steadily dying, the magnitude and significance of our genocide seem to be disappearing. Anti-Semitism, and all forms of intolerance and hatred, begin with apathy to transgressions and actions that one might think is innocent but is actually immensely harmful. These small acts of hatred transform into devastating events, like the shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue and the death of 11 Jewish people on Saturday.
The willful ignorance of our community is becoming consuming. We do not listen or accept dissenting beliefs, nor do we even act on our beliefs. We are becoming passive in our own community.
Written by Jane Feldmesser ’19