Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Op-ed: Students in Greek life should come together to combat racism

Mollie Bowman is the president of the Panhellenic Association.

My grandmother still speaks with horror about the day she was separated from her parents as they were marched in one direction – toward the gas chambers – and she and her sisters in another, to a death camp.

I can only imagine how painful it must be for her to talk about what happened. But for years, she has spoken publicly about her experience during the Holocaust because she has the responsibility to do it – because she owes it to the six million Jews who perished in her place.

It is with the same sense of responsibility that I write this. As a Jewish student, I have felt both deeply saddened and terrified at the appearance of swastikas on campuses across the country. And as president of the GW Panhellenic Association, I have been even more disheartened to hear that they’ve appeared at fraternity and sorority houses.

When I first heard about swastikas spray-painted on the Alpha Epsilon Pi house at Emory University in the fall, I stood in solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters who attended school there, and thanked God something like that could never happen here. Or so I thought.

When swastikas were found on the floor of a historically Jewish sorority in International House, I was appalled. I criticized the University for not adequately responding to the severity of the situation. I felt threatened as a Jewish Panhellenic woman, and would be gravely disappointed if the perpetrator were Greek.

I struggled with how to respond, and ultimately decided to keep quiet. That was, until two weeks later, when the president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma was expelled because of his fraternity’s racist chant about lynching black students rather than extending fraternity membership to them.

Then, a few days after that, another swastika appeared in International House. And the following weekend, more swastikas were spray-painted on an AEPi house at Vanderbilt. There’s a trend here, and I’m uncomfortable with its trajectory – with what could happen next.

Hear me loud and clear: This behavior doesn’t belong here. Bigotry has no place on this campus, and it especially has no place in Greek life.

As members of organizations that tout strong values and close-knit communities, Greek students should most fiercely condemn racist rhetoric – not perpetuate it.

I am the first to boast that GW’s Greek life is a model community, far more progressive than other universities’ Greek systems. But with this honor comes a responsibility to lead the charge against discrimination.

I recognize that one of the swastikas may not have been maliciously intended. Originally, in fact, it was a symbol of peace. But it has come to be associated with hatred, genocide and terror, and that is what it means to any minority victim group that sees it displayed.

Every student should be upset about a swastika found on our campus. If you identify as LGBT, have a disability, or are of any religious or racial minority, you should be concerned and have a right to be disappointed. As a GW student, you should worry about the threat associated with the swastika.

You should embrace the differences of your peers and tolerate no form of bigotry that you see on this campus. And as a fraternity man or sorority woman, you should be ashamed of any brother or sister who vows to uphold the values of your organization while ultimately perpetuating the worst stereotype historically associated with Greek life: that Greeks are racist.

Let’s come together as a campus – Greeks and non-Greeks – to combat discrimination and make sure we’re on a path of inclusion, tolerance and acceptance. GW prides itself on diversity, so let’s work together to lead that charge.

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