Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

PAUL closes in Western Market
By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Op-ed: Strengthening GW’s community requires moral courage

Dwayne Kwaysee Wright is an assistant professor of higher education administration and the director of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

Afnan Rizk, Diaa Mustafa and Sarah Al-Banna, whose ages ranged from 9 to 14 years old, were just three of the nearly 10,000 children killed since Oct. 7.

As a student of the American gay rights movement, I have been trained on the phrase that “silence equals death.” Therefore, in my roles as a professor and a diversity, equity and inclusion director at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, I have publicly, loudly and frequently condemned the violence that Hamas unleashed Oct. 7.

However, it has been disheartening not to see my colleagues likewise condemn the slaughtering of thousands of Palestinians in the aftermath of Oct. 7. To date, more than 30,000 Palestinians have died, nearly 27 times the number of Israelis who died Oct. 7. They were called Ayman, Mustafa and Yahya before the bombs came and took them from all of us.

What is happening in Gaza is a series of public executions to remind Palestinian people — not just Hamas — to stay in their “proper place.” If you don’t want to call it a genocide, label it a mass lynching.

I say this not to downplay Oct. 7. As the descendant of people who were bought and sold like pets, I have empathy for the Jewish people who recently faced annihilation while the world acted like nothing was happening until it was far too late. Humanity’s failure to recognize what was happening to Jews during the Holocaust is a stain on our history.

Never again” is a phrase that originated after the lessons of the Holocaust and continued to echo in the aftermath of atrocities like the Japanese-American internment camps. It should not be seen, however, as the “intellectual property” of any one group. If society is to truly learn from the mistakes of our past, “never again” must be a reminder to all that it is too easy to give into our darkest instincts when we are trained to view our adversaries as something other than human.

To be fair, University President Ellen Granberg has come out against “all forms of antisemitism and Islamophobia.” Simple enough. She deserves some applause — some college presidents won’t even go that far. But she did so after specifically condemning “acts of terrorism” against Israel.

So, does the terrorism being conducted in the name of Israel right now not equally deserve condemnation?

Denouncing the Oct. 7 attacks while not similarly condemning the ongoing loss of life in Gaza has led members of our community to believe that, at GW, Palestinian lives matter a bit less than others’ lives.

Some may say Granberg need not make any statement on the ongoing war. Fair enough. However, one would then need to explain why she so easily labeled the actions of a student group as “antisemitic,” while failing to label the continued killing of innocent Palestinian children as Islamophobic and anti-Arab.

What is happening in Gaza right now is a tragedy. It is the result of hundreds of years of bad decisions backed by the power of European white supremacist colonization. The situation is so complex that even those who study it for a living can struggle to grapple with all the issues.

Still, it should not be this hard for GW to take a moral stand against the killing of what amounts to twice as many people as there are undergraduates at GW this year. What does it say about this space that words projected onto a building receive a more forceful condemnation than dead children in mass graves?

Before they were killed, we knew them as Adam, Elaine and Judy.

In January we celebrated the life of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and one lesson he might have for us today is that “[i]n the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I cannot be silent when faced with the massacre of children. So I join my colleagues in once again asking GW’s leadership to condemn the ongoing murder of innocent Palestinians by Israel.

No plan to “strengthen our community” will be effective until GW officials summon the courage to provide the victims of the ongoing slaughter in Gaza the same empathy and dignity that they extended to the victims of the Oct. 7 attacks. So this is an invitation for GW leadership to say what might be uncomfortable but morally necessary.

I know there may be some backlash to my words. We have too often in the last five months seen antisemitism weaponized to silence those who dare to speak against the moral atrocities being conducted in Gaza. But my conscience will not allow me to be silent as men, women and innocent children are dying.

Last month we celebrated Black Americans, whose national anthem calls us to “lift every voice and sing.” All I have is my voice and I believe it is my obligation to share that voice with those under siege in Gaza. I hear your cries, even as others seem intent on ignoring them. I hope that more will lend their voice to your cause before it is too late.

Their names were Maryam, Laila and Youssef. All children who should be alive today. Now that you know their names, will you still turn away?

After all, silence equals death.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet