By Taylor Galla '18
The BeHeard Forum on Feb. 24 put on by SAS brought a sizable crowd and much attention to a recent anti-semitic Yik Yak posting that prompted a larger discussion about the ways in which Jews feel on campus, as well as the ways in which oppression against all groups is addressed at the 5Cs.
The discussion began with a breakdown of what exactly happened on Yik Yak where many hateful remarks towards Jews were anonymously spewed in response to people expressing concern about posters from a pro-Israel group on campus being torn down.
Students recounted that this is the not the first time anti-semetic actions like this have taken place on campus; there have been numerous occasions where swastikas have been drawn or mezuzahs have been torn off of people’s doors. These actions have prompted enormous discomfort and an unsafe feeling for Jews on campus.
This type of anti-semitic behavior has become a lot more normalized at the Claremont Colleges recently and as an institution, students are calling on the administration to publicly denounce these acts in a timely manner so that it becomes clear that this type of behavior, along with all types of oppression, will not be tolerated.
One Jewish student exclaimed that frequently in classrooms she feels that she cannot bring up the oppression she feels on campus as the discussion will immediately devolve into a discussion about Israel, two things that should not be correlated but are inseparable on campus.
This type of connection creates a new facet of the oppression that Jewish students feel, as anti-Israel is tied to being anti-Jewish and this debate sometimes directly results in hate crimes towards non-Israeli Jews. An example of this is the recent bombardment of swastikas on the AEPi (an international Jewish fraternity) chapter at UC Davis in light of the Israel debate happening on campus.
One student brought up the fact that there is a lack of opportunity for students on campus to educate themselves about Jewish history, as it is not offered within the classes that fulfill Scripps’ Race & Ethnic studies requirement.
Another student brought up that they have experienced false Jewish stereotype perpetuation within classes relating to this requirement, and professors who unknowingly make Jewish students in class feel marginalized due to the content of the discussions or the views of the professors.
The discussion then turned to a discussion of oppression of various forms as well as the invalidation of others’ oppression as a result of some form of their identity. We see this frequently happen with Jews who are white, as it did on Yik Yak, where people denounce the oppression they may feel for being Jewish because they are white. The privilege they possess in one aspect of their identity outweighs the oppression they experience due to another aspect.
This invalidation directly translates to a breaking of allyship between groups, a damage that results in a breaking of bonds between marginalized groups that could work together to create change and strengthen each other on campus.
One student poignantly brought up that being Jewish is not just a religious thing but a cultural thing as well that transcends all borders of the population, there are Jews from every race all over the world. So when a hate crime is committed against a race and people stand up for them Jews are involved as well. However, when a hate crime is committed against Jews specifically and no one stands up those racial minorities are affected as well. If one doesn’t fight against antisemitism you’re agreeing that they do not deserve to exist, by letting that one part of the identity go you’re letting the whole thing go.
A big part of forming these bonds and helping one another with these experiences is framing the whole process around empathy. One should not try to directly relate to someone else’s experiences when they clearly cannot due to factors out of their control like their race and gender, but rather have empathy for another person and their experiences and then move forward with that in mind. With this strategy as well as discussion groups on campus being frequented substantial change can be made.