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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Last week in Kansas, three men were shot — one killed — by a shooter who was tossing ethnic slurs at two of the men, who were from India (the third had jumped in to help). Last Friday, near the Tampa area, a prayer-hall in the Islamic Society of New Tampa was intentionally set on fire. That’s just in the last week.

Since January, there’s been a rise in violent and hateful crime toward specific groups of people. Acts of vandalism of mosques and Jewish cemeteries, bomb threats to Jewish community centers and slurs written across various college campuses have been constantly in the news. UF is not immune, with acts happening on our own campus.

To the acts of anti-Semitism happening around the country, President Donald Trump had this eloquent tidbit to say: “(It’s) horrible, and it’s going to stop and has to stop.” He elaborated a little bit on how “horrible” threats to Jewish community centers were and how “work ... must be done to root out hate.” Perhaps this would not be as much of an issue, Mr. President, had you not appointed Steve Bannon, someone with strong “alt-right” ties, to be your chief strategist. But we digress.

The fact is that hate crimes toward Muslim-Americans, Jewish-Americans, immigrants, people of color have increased since this election. We’ve seen it on campus — with the uprooting last week of the sign outside the African American Studies department and the Center for Jewish Studies, and the hateful words written across whiteboards inside an Anderson Hall classroom on Feb. 10.

We’ve seen people rise against them, but ultimately, nothing has been done about these things. Some of us are scared to walk around campus, in fear of becoming a headline tomorrow.

Except for that brief comment on anti-Semitic acts, Trump has been silent about the acts of violence across the country. This isn’t just a party situation, mind you. Back in 2001, just a week after the 9/11 attacks, when the whole country was freshly wounded, riled and angry, former President George W. Bush visited a mosque, urging Americans not to turn against Muslim-Americans. He defended their religion, saying “Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace, they represent evil and war.”

This was in 2001. This was after a large-scale terror attack on our homeland. This was spoken by a Republican president. Don’t try to tell us Trump is justified in his silence. The wound that 9/11 left on our country was still fresh when Bush urged for peace. If he knew in 2001 that Islam stood for peace and that we should say no to hate and violence, then there’s no reason Trump cannot realize that in 2017.

Now, with threats, vandalism, gunfire, violence — there’s silence. We get one passing comment, addressing only one facet of the hatred brewing in our country: “It’s horrible.”

Yes, we know it’s horrible. The Tampa area, where the mosque was set on fire last Friday, is home to many UF students. Some of us may have driven past this mosque when visiting our parents. Some of us may have attended it. Yet this story is just tacked on the ever-growing list of hate crimes, dismissed as a “lone-wolf” attacker. When do we start holding these lone wolves accountable? When do we realize they may not be motivated by mental instability or weapon access but by hatred of a specific group of people? When are we going to stop piling on these stories and start doing something about them?

We can start here. We need to combat this hate. Fight it by letting people know we won’t stand for hatred. If we are loud enough, perhaps those in charge will hear. But till then, keep on fighting.

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