The Claremont Colleges may be a consortium of liberal arts schools, but recent acts of discrimination reflect an underground sentiment that’s anything but liberal.
While upsetting, the recent defacement of a BSA mural on Walker Wall (see Kulu Maphalala’s story) is not an isolated incident. The vandalism was announced to the student body in the wake of anti-Semitic Yik Yak posts targeting Claremont Students for Israel (CSI). Bias-related incidents don’t stop there, though. On the contrary, individuals and groups have been repeatedly discriminated against in the past, as manifested in a number of acts of bigotry, including the desecration of a quilt celebrating Rosa Parks in December 2014 and the robbery of multiple mezuzahs over the past year.
Discriminatory acts are not always executed from behind a screen or under a blanket of darkness, either. Last year, two people physically assaulted a student while calling her homophobic slurs on April 26. While we often assume that such violent acts don’t happen here, they’ve occurred in the past and have continued into the present.
These direct displays of intolerance happen far too often at a consortium that prides itself on open-mindedness and acceptance. With recent improvements in mind, like Pomona College’s gender-inclusive bathrooms and Scripps College’s trans-inclusive admissions policy, it can be too easy to sit back, label ourselves progressive and turn a blind eye to the acts of physical and psychological violence going on around us.
Such a mindset leaves us open to be blindsided by future acts of intolerance like those against the BSA and the CSI, with no option but to either ignore the events or to decry them. Rather, we should think proactively about how we’d like to respond to discrimination. Scripps revealed a strong commitment to open-mindedness after the defacement of its Women’s History Month quilt, when students and faculty alike joined in a silent dance in protest of the defamation. Concrete responses like these represent the whole community and actively repudiate any further acts of aggression.
We at the Claremont Colleges must resist complacency, even when, or perhaps especially when, our schools seem to set the precedent for acceptance. We must tangibly respond to intolerance to let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that we will not accept any form of bias or discrimination.