Seeking Solace in Solidarity

By Kayla LeGrand

Imagine a world where you are violently persecuted because of an identity you cannot control. How do you feel? Scared? Alone? For many, this is a reality, in which people live in fear of being targeted because of who they are–in fear of hate crimes. 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh by a man motivated by anti-semitism– this was a hate crime. Just three days earlier, a gunman in a Kentucky grocery store killed two Black Americans, after failing to enter a predominantly Black church– this was a hate crime.

Events such as these are deplorable and can be disheartening and unnerving to comprehend. According to The Washington Post, a neighbor of the shooter appeared to be “normal.” Knowing that seemingly “normal” people around us may be filled with hate and bias to a specific group shakes us to our core, making us wonder if safety exists as a member of these persecuted groups. For those both in and outside of these oppressed groups, helplessness is a common feeling; many wonder what can be done to stop these hate crimes and ease the pain of those affected by these senseless acts, questioning why hate crimes persist in the first place.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate crimes are criminal acts driven by intense bias and bigotry, affecting about 250,000 people in the United States yearly. However, it seems that after the 2016 election, where the presence of white supremacists and neo-nationalists was felt heavily, we hear of hate crimes much more often. The anti-semitic and racist tragedies that recently occurred are of course not the first hate crimes and will most likely not be last. So what is there to do to about these cruel actions? How can a community heal and how can others help a community recover? How can we build solidarity?

Firstly, we must acknowledge these crimes and condemn them, whether it be on social media, by showing up for protests, or by comforting those affected. These acts show communities that have suffered that they are not alone, validating their pain and demonstrating that these acts are unacceptable. Take for example Barnard’s response to the tragic events at the Tree of Life Synagogue; by sending out an email condemning the attacks and offering counseling services and holding a vigil hosted by the Jewish centers on campus, we showed the Jewish community here that they are not alone.

Other student groups should also show up for others affected by hate crimes, host their own discussions and listening sessions for their peers that have been affected in order to demonstrate true understanding and solidarity. This also includes condemning hate crimes that may have not received prominent attention, such as the tragedy at the Kentucky grocery store. The story got lost in the news cycle and did not receive recognition from institutions like the College.

In light of these vile hate crimes, we must rebuild what hate has brought down by collectively showing that hate does not have a place in our world. To quote Bell Hooks, a prominent black feminist, “Solidarity is not the same as support. To experience solidarity, we must have a community of interests, shared beliefs and goals around which to unite, to build Sisterhood.” Our beliefs of anti-hate must be shared in order to have solidarity, to fight anti-semitism, anti-blackness, homophobia, xenophobia, racism, and hate crimes. If we all begin to condemn hate crimes and advocate for authorities and government to condemn these crimes as well, hopefully, we may start to live in a world with a little less hate.  

Kayla Legrand