NU marches against hate

Seth Freedland

Nothing symbolized Thursday’s Unity March against hate better than a black student who proudly brandished a sign reading “shalom” — the Hebrew word for peace.

A crowd of 200 to 300 Northwestern students, faculty and staff cheered speakers in front of The Rock, then marched to Ayers College of Commerce and Industry to protest anti-Semitic and racist vandalism that has appeared in two North Campus residence halls in the past week. Hillel Cultural Life, For Members Only and Alpha Epsilon Pi co-sponsored the protest.

With anti-hate slogans painted on The Rock behind him, Hillel Executive Vice President Richard Goldberg recalled a famous example of Jewish and black unification for a social cause.

“Thirty-eight years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel marched hand in hand in Selma, Alabama,” said Goldberg, a Medill sophomore. “Then Jews and blacks stood united as intolerance plagued both peoples. This is our Selma today.”

Calling hate a “malignant cancer,” Goldberg demanded an end to NU’s recent spate of racist language.

“I challenge this campus to educate the ignorant, to unmask stereotypes,” he said. “We are soldiers in a battle of ignorance and injustice — and we can’t lose.”

Associated Student Government President Rachel Lopez asked students to “find the hypocrisy within ourselves,” recalling Cornel West’s Martin Luther King Day speech.

“We will be judged not by isolated incidents, but by our reactions to these incidents,” said Lopez, a Weinberg senior. “Don’t let this go by as a minor occurrence.”

One of the students who discovered a swastika on his door last week, McCormick sophomore Jared Brown, said the personal attack stretched across campus and tarnished NU’s “reputation as a tolerant community.”

Following Brown, ASG secretary Matt Hall drew cheers from the crowd with his message of conquering injustice with kindness.

“Hatred is the plague that infests our souls of our community,” said Hall, a Communication sophomore. “Never let it be the cure. We must respond to hatred with love.”

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein said he envisions getting groups of students from different backgrounds to “share and get to know each other.” A silver lining to the recent black cloud of bigotry may exist, he said.

“However painful this was, what has happened after it is great,” he said. “We have to continue this energy. We absolutely must stop the polarization and start coming together.”

In that spirit, the Multicultural Center Advisory Board started an online petition to denounce the racist and anti-Semitic vandalism. The petition listed more than 2,200 names as of Thursday night.

As passers-by cheered and cars honked in support, the rally-goers turned into marchers as the throng moved past Norris University Center, along Sheridan Road to CCI.

Episcopal Chaplain Jackie Schmitt, who marched and signed the petition, said she wanted to stand “in solidarity with the students.”

“This is a symptom of the larger picture,” she said. “We need to take a stand now on the issue of justice. … I was just so impressed by the common voice coming across group lines.”

Because the second swastika was scrawled on the door of two AEPi members, the fraternity took a leadership role in the event. But AEPi president Michael Zoldessy said he believes the issues resonate throughout campus.

“This is everybody’s problem — everybody who shares values of tolerance and diversity at NU,” said Zoldessy, a Communication senior. “We want to have more events with FMO, Hillel and any other group that wants to join us in unifying.”

Norris Director Bill Johnston said he felt a responsibility to attend the march as a university leader, saying: “I can’t be as effective as a leader of students if I sat idly by as this sort of thing happened.

“It’s too bad that specific incidences are what it takes to be more vigilant. We should be talking about this all the time.”

Charles Watkins, general manager of business operations for Norris, said the march’s success marked a high point in his six years at NU.

“There have been many moments I have been proud of NU students,” he said. “They’ve been athletic, academic, musical, theatrical. But I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder than how I was of the students who stood at The Rock today.”