EMILY COLEMAN ’16
Monday is universally regarded as the worst day of the week. For a Trinity student, it typically involves the long, slow process of waking up whilst simultaneously hitting snooze, only to hit the Long Walk and greet everyone with puffy eyes and other harmful tolls that the weekend has caused our bodies. What a student typically should not experience is walking home to a swastika spray-painted on their tree.
Located at The IVY Society at 162 Allen Place, a gold swastika was painted in strategically thick coats, glittering in the sun and shining down for all residents of Allen Place to see. As the weekend wound down and the festivities ended, as Chief Justice of Risk Management, I did my routine outdoor and indoor check of the house on Sunday. Monday came with a humid air accompanied by ominous dark clouds and sporadic sprinkles of precipitation. As I walked down the back stairwell, a string of lights lying outside of our backyard caught my eye. Christmas was approaching, after all, and we had no decorations on our front porch. I opened the back door and was greeted by a warm gust of mist. Once I had picked up the strand of lights, I turned around only to see spray paint on our beloved tree in our back yard.
After “the swastika incident,” we as a house reached out to multiple people, who had not seen any suspicious activity. What I began to realize was that this was not a drunken fun thing for stupid boys to do to mess with us; this was much more serious than that. This was a troubled individual who possesses none of the qualities of a Trinity student.
Initially, I was overwhelmed and filled with anxiety, suspicion, and hatred.
This was a huge mistake on my part. I allowed hatred, frustration, and disgust to take over my emotions. I was suspicious of everyone and blamed many people based off of my own interpretation of them. Then I realized that I was only judging people. The only thing I was accomplishing was driving myself to the point of insanity, constantly wondering what kind of monster could do this.
I began to recognize after a month of this nonsense that I should not be angry towards this person, because I realized I should only feel sorry for them. Whoever is going through such deep, intensified self-doubt, and feels so unsafe that they were compelled to express themselves this way is not someone who deserves, or qualifies for, hatred. All I can do is acknowledge that this person has their own buried acute fury and feel pity that they do not have the courage, confidence, or support to deal with it appropriately.
After this realization that I had allowed my emotions to take over my rationality, I decided to pursue other students on campus that I did not know from my classes, in line at Peter B’s, or in Vernon Social, and ask them about their thoughts about social issues on campus.
Just last month, as previously reported by the Trinity Tripod, a racial slur was reported on a Black History Month flyer. I contacted one of the first people to discover the horrific defacement and asked her how she reacted to it. She told me that “I feel so confused but I remain grounded by understanding the ignorance that surrounds us. I do not ignore it, it still hurts, but I know who I am and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. Whoever did this, I feel sorry for.”
My own experience turned into a much bigger issue and overall. As much as it saddens me and even still angers me, my experience just communicating with others with whom I might not have ever met before graduating was rewarding because I know that most people really are good at heart. Most people are willing to do much more than we think, in every aspect.
This was shown when I simply reached out to other students and just asked them how they felt. An important thing to remember is that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of social injustice stem from fear and insecurity. I have found it to be more effective to let them learn for themselves, whilst providing positive energy and encouragement rather than telling them that they are wrong, because this only provokes their defense mechanism: hatred.
I have faith in the community at Trinity College, despite these heinous, petty, hate crimes, that if we just push ourselves to communicate with others, we can unify to do something great. Say hello to people on the Long Walk, go to a game and meet new people, experience different things than you have been used to while at Trinity. You will regret it after college if you don’t. Have more faith in people that you do not know, talk to the girl that you decided you did not like the first time you met her, say hi to someone on the quieter side in your class, who knows, they might end up inspiring you more than you know.
The issue seems to be rooted in miscommunication. We have “open discussions,” hosted by the SGA, for example, which I have witnessed are not, in fact, open, but pre-planned. It focuses on specific issues that distract people from having a truthful discussion about what the general campus wants. It proves to not be an open discussion after all.
The most significant lesson to take from all of these problems is the importance of communication through all of these problems. Reach out to me before getting angry, that is the only way we can learn.
EMILY COLEMAN ’16