EDITORIAL: Racism etched into life at NU

The swastika found penciled in a stairwell at Willard Residential College on Oct. 30 might not be considered a hate crime because it was not directed at a particular student, but its message was just as powerful — even if no one wanted to hear it.

Early Wednesday morning another racial epithet was found in Chapin Hall. That someone at Northwestern feels the need to express his or her beliefs in such cowardly and offensive ways is shocking. That it’s happened seven times in dorms all over campus since February is disgusting. The standard response — this is an isolated incident and this isn’t NU — is more than just ineffective. It’s false. As ugly as it is, NU must accept that those responsible are a part of the community, and their acts influence and contribute to the university’s identity.

Surely some of these incidents are copy-cat offenses, but to say the perpetrators are just looking for attention is naive. Unquestionably an element of this school believes in these racist messages, and denying their existence or insisting they “aren’t NU” fails to combat the problem.

Community forums held last year did little but offer a platform to student leaders who were openly voicing opinions anyway. Students should respond to recent incidents by uniting against them — student group partnerships aren’t going to undo damage, but they can’t hurt the cause. Working together in tough times is part of the NU identity, too.

Most importantly students and administrators should remember that racism happens every day on this campus, in Evanston and across the world in ways that are less concrete — and often more painful — than racial epithets and symbols on walls. These incidents are examples of the problem, but the feelings that motivate them are the problem itself.

In a community as diverse as NU, extreme belief systems are represented. Unfortunately racist individuals are a part of NU. Denying that any longer will only lead to more pain, more hurt and more acts of racism on this campus.