the complacency of “safe”

“I want you to know that our campus is safe. There are no threats to campus, and our staff are addressing this situation . . .

“Clearly racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism are antithetical to everything Davidson stands for and to the community we strive to be.”

These were the words that President Quillen sent us on November 8, about an hour and a half before I would write nothing but the date and the phrase “class discussion” in my little red notebook during the Thursday morning humanities session. Despite the purported facts that “our campus [was] safe” and that “clearly racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism are antithetical to everthing Davidson stands for,” what we discussed that morning was the fear and hatred on our campus.

In case no one else has stated it plainly to you, I will say it: Davidson College is a campus that hosts racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism. And that should not be a controversial statement. To try to deny that statement is to ignore the phenomena of discrimination across all college campuses that impacts students like those at Davidson; to deny it is to silence the voices of impacted students who seek to combat these hateful ideas on our very campus.

If we want to be the community in which such ideologies are “clearly” “antithetical to everything Davidson stands for,” we must first acknowledge such ideologies’ presence on our campus in order to take a proactive stance against them—to address what it is that enables these ideologies to appear and sustain on our campus. It wasn’t an accident or unfortunate coincidence that these students believed what they did and felt safe to do so while they attended our school. To simply and only reaffirm that the individuals in question were off campus and that that is—that they are—the extent of the hatred-based threats on our campus is irresponsible and negligent to the concerns of all marginalized groups on our campus. To simply say that we are safe when this was just one outed instance of hatred embedded in our community is to ignore the problem at large. To simply reaffirm a conception of what we want Davidson to be as what Davidson already is only enables the festering of these hatred-based groups that guise themselves and adapt to the climate of the school. The school sets the tone for what is allowable, and to not provide a clear path to combating these ideologies that fester beneath the surface only serves to further enable them.

Perhaps the administration admitting that these ideologies exist on our campus is bad PR; maybe it’s a bad headline, could drop application numbers, what have you. As we’re currently wrestling with finals and snowfall, I’ve seen us slip back into the habit of forgetting already—forgetting that these beliefs are present here simply because we are not currently experiencing a “threat.” But the groups affected by the hatred that continues to fester on our campus don’t have the option to forget; there will always persist to be threats until Davidson begins to combat them—and that starts with acknowledging these threats’ existences prior to an eminent danger befalling our community. We will not feel safe until the Davidson administration changes its perspective. We will not feel safe until Davidson truly acknowledges the danger it hosts.